KeepAndBearArms.com -- Previously, I discussed the
various current airport security
measures, and their relative effectiveness. Now, let's look at real
solutions, rather than interim stopgaps.
Hey, you, American!
Do you feel safer with the new
FAA security regulations? Do you think terrorism is less likely, with all
Well, let's look at what we've done. There are no more
knives allowed on flights. We are even more helpless than we were, and that's
the key, isn't it? But the key to what?
What are you going to do when one of these extremists
actually gets a legitimate job as a pilot, and sits for years, waiting for an
Think it can't happen? Well, consider this: Everyone
assigned to Andrews Air Force Base, whether or not they support Air Force One,
has very detailed security investigations done. They are all held to the highest
standards possible. And yet, should there be a fire aboard Air Force One, the
Secret Service will not allow the base fire department aboard, and will instead
deal with it themselves. They are afraid that a mole snuck into the service, or
bribed later, might either attack a president (who would not even have been
president when this tentative plot was started), or will reveal details of the
inside of Air Force One that they don't want known.
Paranoid? That's their job. But if they are afraid of
that, how unlikely is it that a pilot could be a mole, waiting to crash a plane?
And what could you, without even a pocketknife, do about it?
Ridiculous? What about more credible threats, then. Do
you think there's any reason a terrorist can't wrap several feet of piano wire,
thereby to make a handy garrotte, around his wrist under his watch? Or inside
the heel of a shoe, where it will read as nails? Heck, an icepick or knife can
go there. Knives can be hidden in pens, or in the hinges of briefcases.
Why not ban ALL metal objects aboard planes?
Of course, the same trick could be done with 100 lb test
nylon fishing line. And there are ceramic, plastic, composite, and even titanium
(a very low signature metal) knives on the market. Five minutes with a $20 belt
sander can turn an ice scraper into a chisel-edged blade for emergency security
measures. I know--I've done it. I've also made G-10 (epoxy/glass laminate),
carbon fiber, and Lexan blades for customers. These were legitimate military and
security personnel, but it's not really esoteric knowledge. Any high school kid
can do it with stuff he can buy at the hardware store. Some of the commercially
made ones are designed to hide in a necktie. If it's sharp enough to hack a
seatbelt, it's sharp enough to hack a throat. What justification is there for
Well, as one military officer told me, "If I can
sneak one aboard, it means security is inadequate and a terrorist could
So, we should search everyone with a thorough frisk, and
check their shoes, ties, and carry on baggage (if we still allow it…more on
that later), as well as any coats or jackets, right? No jewelry that could hide
wire or cord.
But what about shoelaces? As for no carry-ons, what
about diaper bags? Think a terrorist won't hide behind a baby? I hope not,
because they have and they did on September 11. Then, women usually have purses,
in which they often carry sanitary supplies they need with them.
What about camera bags? Cell phones? Bombs and guns have
been hidden in both. If your only goal is to bring the plane down, nerve gas
could be hidden in a can of hairspray, or a bottle of aftershave.
So, we could just require everyone to strip, and wear
issued coveralls for the duration of the flight.
But people can, and have, still managed to smuggle stuff
through security. Ask any prison guard. Are you willing to take the probing
finger, (two of them if you're female!) to assure your safety? Really? And how
will you explain this to your 12 year old daughter and 7 year old son?
Hadn't thought about that, had you?
Are you coming to the paranoid conclusion that you can't
stop someone from hurting you?
Well, good. That's not paranoid. It's reality. The above
ideas came off the top of my head, after years of dealing with this. Think a
dedicated terrorist can't be more creative?
But that's only half the equation. We've demonstrated
that making ourselves more helpless won't accomplish anything except making us
more helpless. It's odd that a certain segment of society continues to insist on
this as a response.
So what about the reverse? Making ourselves LESS
The obvious two approaches are to arm the pilot (we are
already trusting him with our lives, after all), and to have the sky marshals
Of course, both of those cost money, and can be
defeated--if you fly the same route often enough, you'll see who the marshals
are. If they change routes, you can still spot them as they bypass security or
show ID. Garrotte the marshal (or both), while someone else tackles the pilot.
Hey, these terrorists are willing to die for a cause. Think they won't sacrifice
four to bring down a plane?
We again come to that which you are reluctant to
consider: letting anyone with rudimentary safety training carry weapons.
Think about it--the terrorists ARE GOING to get weapons
aboard. That's a fact, and not subject to dispute.
If you don't try to stop people from carrying legitimate
defensive weapons, it makes security that much easier--your only concern is that
they have ammunition that won't punch gaping holes in the airframe. If they beep
at the security point, you simply inspect that they have the appropriate ammo,
and wish them well.
Certainly, a terrorist COULD arrange to outgun everyone
on the flight, including the cabin crew and a marshal…but that is at least as
hard as arranging to be the ONLY armed attacker under our current approach. It
can't be worse in end result.
You think people will shoot each other over spilled
Well, now you ARE being paranoid. First of all, a
miniscule number of people would be so disposed. Second, it's illegal for such
people to be armed in the first place. Third, the result of such would be
detention by the OTHER armed passengers aboard. No one is going to start a fight
under those circumstances, unless they are suicidal. And if they are…
…that's EXACTLY the reason the rest of us SHOULD be
able to be armed.
Which would you prefer? Head to toe search and grope,
prod and poke, paper coveralls and Brave New World treatment…
…or a helpful attendant asking, "Can I get you
anything? Coffee? Tea? Low velocity .380?"
Copyright 2000, 2001 by Michael Z. Williamson.
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