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'Only law enforcement officers should carry firearms'


May 22, 2002 -- In a common display of political cowardice, the undersecretary for transportation security, John Magaw told a congressional committee that pilots would not be allowed to carry firearms as a last line of defense against hijackers.

Hopefully, Congress will exhibit more fortitude in passing HR 4635. This bill will make it a federal law that airline pilots who are qualified, investigated and trained will be allowed to carry a firearm on board commercial aircraft for the defense of the passengers, crew and those on the ground, in the event of a hijacking, as outlined by the following:

Sec. 44921. Federal flight deck officer program

(a) ESTABLISHMENT- Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security shall establish a program to deputize qualified volunteer pilots of passenger aircraft as Federal law enforcement officers to defend the flight decks of aircraft of air carriers engaged in air transportation or intrastate air transportation against acts of criminal violence or air piracy. Such officers shall be known as `Federal flight deck officers'. The program shall be administered in connection with the Federal air marshal program.

(b) QUALIFIED PILOT- Under the program, a qualified pilot is a pilot of an aircraft engaged in air transportation or intrastate air transportation who-- (1) is employed by an air carrier; (2) has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Under Secretary fitness to be a Federal flight deck officer under the program; and (3) has been the subject of an employment investigation (including a criminal history record check) under section 44936(a)(1).

Magaw claims that only law enforcement should carry firearms on aircraft. Magaw has suggested a plan to provide all law enforcement officers with a special ID card that will allow them access to the aircraft with a firearm. Since this plan does not include pilots, I wonder if Magaw has a plan to create ‘super’ law enforcement officers to fly aircraft if the pilots become incapacitated during flight, or during a hijacking attempt?

There is no guarantee, as Magaw claims, that a law enforcement officer will be on board a hijacked commercial airliner, or that it will prevent a future hijacking. In fact, there was a federal law enforcement officer with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on United Airlines flight 93 that crashed in Shanksville, PA on September 11, 2001. Why did this officer not prevent the hijacking? Did the terrorists defeat him early on during the hijacking? The government is not talking! It is certain that if the pilots were armed with lethal self-defense tools these terrorists would be “picked off” by the pilots as they came through the narrow flight deck door.

Instead, Magaw is implementing a toll free 800 number for passengers to call the authorities in the event of a hijacking. There were several passengers and crewmembers that made cell phone calls on September 11, and not one of those calls prevented the horrific tragedy that followed. The only logical reason for an 800 number for this purpose is to provide the government with an ‘early alert’ for the dispatch of the military fighters that will use missiles to shoot down the aircraft.

Can you imagine the embarrassment to the United States if Osama bin Laden dupes us into shooting down one of our own aircraft? The propaganda advantage to OBL and al Qaeda would be better than another WTC style attack! We would be the laughing stock of the world.

Magaw said the pilots could use in-flight maneuvers to keep the hijackers off guard and suggested installing cameras in the cabin so pilots can see the results of any actions they take. Magaw also stated that pilots should “concentrate on flying the aircraft”. If this is true, how is a video screen in the flight deck going to keep the pilots concentration on flying the aircraft? In addition, the FAA has already advised pilots not to use unusual maneuvers in flight. Such action could cause structural damage to the aircraft and also injure crewmembers in the cabin.

Magaw claims that he would possibly favor the use of less-than-lethal weapons for the defense of the flight deck such as stun guns or Tasers. While John Magaw was director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, I am certain he would not send his agents into a potentially hazardous situation armed only with a “stun gun”. The use of a stun gun in the flight deck of a fly-by-wire aircraft could have devastating results to the entire electrical system and may cause the loss of the aircraft. Pilots and passengers deserve the same logical consideration when it comes to the potential hazard of a deadly hijacking.

This only illustrates the ignorance of the TSA director and shows that he has not done his homework before making such a broad statement that he will not allow armed pilots. I can guarantee that John Magaw did not meet with proponents of the armed pilot program or any industry leaders familiar with the complexities of the issue before making his ridiculous statement to Congress.

John Magaw is bowing to the wishes of the terrorist organizations that wish a safe work environment for their evil activities and the airlines that are only concerned about their liability and bottom line.

With the daily warnings of more terror attacks every concerned citizen should contact their Congressman and encourage them to support the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act (HR 4635)

Captain Jackson is a pilot for a major US air carrier and a technical advisor to Armed Females of America. He has also been an active proponent of arming pilots and is a certified firearm instructor.

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