Ron Paul (R., Texas) has introduced H.R.
2896, a bill that, if passed, would arm airline pilots. Although
current federal regulations allow pilots to be armed if both the
airline and the FAA consent (14 Code of Federal Regulations section
108.11), bureaucratic inertia appears to have prevented the widespread
arming of pilots. That policy must change, because it is the only
reform unlike the panoply of freedom-restricting measures
currently being promoted by the Department of Transportation
that actually would have foiled the September 11 acts of war.
Aviation Administration, though, has announced that it will repeal
the regulation allowing armed pilots, effective November 14. Thanks
to the new "security" measures imposed by the FAA, pilots
can no longer even possess a three-inch pocketknife in the cockpit.
Enactment of Rep. Paul's bill would remove the FAA's ability to
block pilots from carrying defensive arms.
FAA apparently has deepened its own faith in the culture of passivity,
many other Americans are asserting their right and duty to resist
evil. Foremost among these is the Air Line Pilots Association, the
union for U.S. and Canadian commercial pilots, which testified to
Congress on September 11, in favor of all pilots being armed.
A web poll
on the CNN website, with over 100,000 votes, is reporting 72% of
the public in favor of armed pilots, with 28% opposed.
spokeswoman Jenna Ludgate said that under no circumstances would
United allow its pilots to be armed: "Pilots are first and
foremost pilots and in any emergency situation, they need to be
flying the plane."
ignores the obvious: Pilots can't "be flying the plane"
if a hijacker kills them. That's what happened in the "emergency
situations" on September 11. One of the ways to ensure that
the pilots stays in control of the plane is the ensure that the
pilots stay alive.
NRO readers have responded to my previous two columns (Sept.
12 & Sept.
14) on the subject of arming the law-abiding on planes.
Bob Poole, of the Reason Foundation, pointed out that my Sept. 12
reference to the "steel" fuselage of an airplane should
have been to "aluminum."
Dean Speir informs me that the air marshals of the 1970s did not,
contrary to gun-shop rumors, carry .44 revolvers. They did use Glaser
Safety Slugs for ammunition, as I reported. The Glasers are high-velocity
handgun ammunition containing birdshot or "dust shot"
(not, as I'd read on the Internet, buckshot).
Also, the risk
of a stray bullet creating a decompression that could cause a crash,
which I'd reported to be virtually nil, is apparently even less
than that. Retired Air Force General James Chambers points out that
the Air Force has plenty of pressurized planes, such as AWACS, which
are able to sustain penetration/damage from bullets from enemy fighter
jet machine guns. The General said that the worst case would simply
require a plane flying at an altitude of about 30,000 feet to hurry
down to lower altitudes. If the plane were above 30,000 feet, there
would probably be enough breathable air for the pilots to maintain
consciousness, even without the air masks.
Airlines flight attendant pointed out that if a hijacker's head
were "justifiably blown out the side of the aircraft with a
Glock," this "would not be a terribly big problem because
pilots have full face oxygen masks that are 6 inches from their
heads at all times and they could quickly put them on and dive the
plane to a safe altitude." The flight attendant also wrote:
"I think pilots should definitely have firearms. The majority
of them are ex-military; they are behind the door and best able
to use them."
I had also
suggested that flight attendants be armed. One reader worried that
hijackers might overpower a steward(ess) in "order to obtain
the gun that they otherwise could not spirit onboard the plane."
This is a legitimate concern.
pilots nor stewards should wear guns in unconcealed holsters, where
they could be snatched. Concealed guns, with a variety of methods
of concealment, would be the better approach. And because carrying
a gun, especially when in constant contact with the public, requires
a high degree of thoughtfulness and vigilance, flight attendants
who do not want to arm themselves and thus assume increased responsibility
should not be forced to do so.
I'd also written
in favor of allowing passengers with state-issued concealed handgun
permits to possess their guns on the plane. Such carrying should
be limited only to U.S. citizens (some states issue permits to lawful
resident aliens), and it would be perfectly legitimate for additional
training requirements to be imposed on passengers seeking to carry.
reader makes a point that has been widely overlooked: Cracking down
on air travel so severely that people switch to driving instead
will lead to increased deaths because commercial air travel
is still much safer than driving, especially on longer trips.