(CBS) — A transportation expert says the Fort Lauderdale airport shootings Friday present a whole new set of dilemmas for law enforcement and the aviation industry.
Last year’s Brussels Airport attack made headlines worldwide, but Joe Schwieterman of DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute says not in this manner — not with a gun that was legally checked and declared, only to be assembled and used upon arrival and retrieval.
“What I’m struck about, there’s been a huge debate on the psychological fitness of pilots, that’s where the attention’s been. Now it’s about passengers carrying guns and perhaps they’re unfit to be in that environment,” he said, adding that the questions over guns allowed on flights will take front and center.
“It’s certainly going to provoke a debate. Ammunition is often a thing you can’t bring, but bringing guns it’s a lot safer to have those down below than people trying to sneak them on board. What’s striking here though is that this passenger took his gun to his destination and then used it,” he said. “It’s a whole new twist and we aren’t quite sure whether something happened on the flight that caused some sort of mental breakdown. That makes dealing with this difficult, because it wasn’t the gun on the plane that was the problem, it was when he arrived.”
Schwieterman expects extended debate to determine what should be done — and in the meantime, he says you can expect to see more security in various forms in airport terminals.
“We’re seeing airport terminals become very symbolic,” he said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of sort of symbolic police presence — you’re gonna see more dogs, you’re gonna see more cameras, you’re gonna see more cops. … I do think it is more than symbolic in the sense that it appears that this gunman had some time where he was there shooting, we don’t know how long that took, but it didn’t look like this was an automatic weapon where this was seconds. This was an extended gun scene and had their been police presence that could have been cut short.”
CBS 2 Security Consultant Ross Rice, formerly with the FBI, agrees law enforcement and the FAA will re-examine the way weapons are transported in checked luggage. He says the Fort Lauderdale scenario is a change-up from previous attacks on the front-end of airports.
“It’s kind of a reverse scenario of what we’ve seen recently around the world where we’ve seen armed attacks at airports. Those attacks have always come from the outside, not from within,” Ross says.
But Ross warns that people calling for more surveillance of folks who shows signs of being mentally unstable should look at that suggestion realistically.
“If someone hasn’t committed a crime there’s not much you can do. I hear the term ‘law enforcement’s radar’ all the time and I really don’t know what it means,” he said. “You can’t follow somebody 24 hours a day, seven days a week simply because they make outlandish claims or comments. I think in this case what we’re gonna find out after it’s all investigated is this is gonna be an isolated incident and the individual had a mental health issue — not terrorist related or some vendetta because it doesn’t look like he targeted anyone specific.”