The primary mission of the Transportation Security Administration is to “protect the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.” The TSA can authorize armed security officers to carry out that duty, as long as they meet certain qualifications.
To become an armed security officer, candidates must be U.S. citizens who: are at least 21 years old; be free of any physical, mental or emotional condition that prevents them from fulfilling their duties; not have been convicted of any domestic violence offense; not have had the TSA revoke any previous authorization, deputation or commission; not be prohibited by federal law from having firearms; and must be eligible for a Class II Medical Certificate issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Armed agents must also be law enforcement officers who are currently active, retired or formerly qualified with at least four years of law enforcement experience. They must have completed basic law enforcement training from a federal, state or local government body. Officers are nominated by either an airport or aircraft operator. Though working under a government program, agents are not employed by the federal government. Rather, they are compensated by the nominating body.
Applicants must submit information to the TSA, including: all legal names and any other names used; current mailing and residential address; birthplace and date; Social Security number; and date of naturalization, if applicable. They also must undergo a criminal background check based on their fingerprint. It must not disclose any criminal offense that disqualifies him from having a weapon.
Candidates accepted into the service must undergo a two-day training session administered by the Federal Air Marshall Service at one of several locations around the country. They learn guidelines on the use of force, defensive tactics and become expert in the use of firearms. At the end of training, they have to pass a written test and firearm qualification course before receiving their TSA credentials.
Rules and Regulations
Once credentialed, armed TSA officers must then comply with the rules and regulations of the armed security officer program. This includes carrying firearms according to established guidelines, restricting disclosure of sensitive security information, and not consuming alcohol or using intoxicating or hallucinatory substance during a flight and eight hours before boarding. They must show their TSA-issued credentials when requested by authorized personnel, identify themselves to all crew members on a flight and re-qualify with their approved firearms twice per year.