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Bush’s decision to oppose bill to arm pilots is great news for terrorists, Libertarians say

Libertarian Party Press Releases
May 3, 2002

Bush’s decision to oppose bill to arm pilots is great news for terrorists, Libertarians say

WASHINGTON, DC -- President Bush's opposition to a House bill that would allow pilots to carry guns in the cockpit shows a distrust for American pilots and a reckless disregard for the lives of travelers, Libertarians say.

"The president has chosen gun control over terrorist control," said Libertarian Party Executive Director Steve Dasbach. "The flight crews of the four airliners hijacked on September 11 were totally unarmed -- and the terrorists knew that. The truly shocking thing is that eight months after that horrific event, pilots are still unarmed -- and the president of the United States wants to keep it that way."

The bill, introduced on Wednesday by U.S. Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and John Mica (R-FL), would allow airlines to decide whether pilots could have access to a weapon in the cockpit. However, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the Bush administration opposes such a policy because it would create "a potential for handguns getting loose on airplanes." Instead, he argued the airlines should rely on federal sky marshals, stronger cockpit doors, and better baggage screening.

But more sky marshals aren't the answer, Dasbach said.

"The government would have to hire 14,000 more federal marshals, at a cost of over $1 billion, to put one on every flight, according to a recent study by the Cato Institute," he said. "And pilots fear that a determined, suicidal terrorist might still be able to sneak a gun through airline security and penetrate a reinforced cockpit door.

"In contrast, arming pilots would be an effective, low-cost deterrent to hijackers. But like most politicians, Bush reflexively chooses the 'solution' that requires a bigger, costlier government."

Libertarians say the real question is: "If pilots can be trusted to operate a $100 million jumbo jet filled with hundreds of passengers, why can't they be trusted to carry a gun?"

Instead of putting his trust in an expanded government program, Dasbach encouraged Bush to defer to the real experts on airline security: Pilots and the airlines that employ them.

"Steve Luckey, security chief for the 67,000-strong Airline Pilots Association, has said arming pilots is something that 'desperately needs to be done,' " Dasbach noted. "And a February poll of the pilots group found that over 70 percent favor such a policy."

Evidence also suggests that the flying public trusts pilots more than the president does, Dasbach said.

"The fact that thousands of individuals board a plane every day shows that ordinary Americans implicitly trust airline pilots with their lives," he said. "So why not let the people with the most at stake -- pilots, airlines, and passengers -- decide this issue, instead of a president who cruises around on Air Force One surrounded by armed Secret Service agents?"

If Bush really wants to demonstrate he's tough on terrorists, he should support the Young-Mica bill, Dasbach said.

"The presence of armed pilots would send an unmistakable message to would-be terrorists: Americans are no longer going to be sitting -- or flying -- ducks."

Related Reading: Airplanes & Guns archives


Printer Version

There are other things so clearly out of the power of Congress, that the bare recital of them is sufficient, I mean the "...rights of bearing arms for defence, or for killing game..." These things seem to have been inserted among their objections, merely to induce the ignorant to believe that Congress would have a power over such objects and to infer from their being refused a place in the Constitution, their intention to exercise that power to the oppression of the people. —ALEXANDER WHITE (1787)

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