Newsletters 1994-2001

-- Rep. Paul says his bill will save lives if enacted


Terrorists armed only with knives were able to hijack a plane, right, and crash it into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.

By Erich Pratt

Gun Owners of America called on Congress to immediately adopt self-defense legislation that was introduced in September by Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas.

Paul's bill (H.R. 2896) will overturn existing laws and regulations that effectively prevent pilots from carrying sidearms onto planes.

"It would be a mistake," Paul told The Gun Owners, "to respond to September's terrorist attacks by punishing the American people with more infringements on their liberties.

"We don't need more intrusive government. We need freedom. Freedom saves lives, and my bill is a modest step towards letting pilots defend their lives and the lives of their passengers -- not to mention the lives of thousands of innocent people who may be working in office buildings."

It is imperative that gun owners let their Congressman and Senators know that they support this legislation. Articles dealing with how America should respond to September's terrorist attacks are included in this newsletter.


Dispelling the Myths About Guns in Planes

In light of the terrorist skyjackings that occurred in September, Americans are searching for ways to dissuade such an occurrence from ever happening again.

One solution that is gaining traction among freedom lovers -- but encountering resistance in other segments of our society -- is the notion that pilots, crew members and concealed carry holders should be armed while flying.

Of course, the gun-hating crowd never thinks that guns in good people's hands will ever serve as a deterrent to bad guys. And even if it did, they say, allowing guns on planes could either accidentally -- or intentionally -- allow a gun holder to bring down an entire plane.

On September 16, Dave Kopel and Captain David Petteys teamed up to dispel this myth. Kopel is well known to gun owners as an author of multiple books and articles in defense of Second Amendment rights.

Captain Petteys is a retired United Airlines pilot, a Marine helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War, and is the author of Marine Helo.

Writing in National Review Online, here's what Kopel and Petteys had to say about this notion that a gun could bring down an entire plane:

Back in the early 1970s, the last time that air marshals were in routine use on domestic flights, they were often armed with .44 magnum snub-nosed revolvers. The revolvers often carried 'prefragmented' ammunition, such as the Glaser round, which is composed of buckshot pellets.
The short barrel of the revolver means that the round is fired at relatively lower velocity. Fragmenting rounds have very low penetrability -- since their kinetic energy is dispersed in many small projectiles, rather than in a single bullet, and since they are less dense than regular bullets. Glaser fragmenting rounds typically will fail even to penetrate a wood door.
The tradeoff is that such bullets tend to produce shallow wounds, which reduces their ability to instantly kill or incapacitate their target.

Prefragmented ammo not likely to penetrate an airplane's hull

So what are the benefits of prefragmented ammunition?

With prefragmented ammunition, the chance of a stray round penetrating the aluminum body of the plane is virtually nil," note Kopel and Petteys. "With less exotic ammunition, it is theoretically possible, but hardly certain, that a stray bullet could penetrate an airplane's body.

"What would happen in such a case? Would the plane crash instantly? World War II veterans may remember that B- 17 bombers which had numerous holes ripped open by hostile machine gun bullets had a legendary ability to stay aloft.

"Unlike the B-17, however, modern commercial aircraft are pressurized for passenger comfort. Today's commercial airliners have pressurized cabin altitudes that climb to a maximum of around 8,000 feet (which amounts to about 8.6 psi pressure differential compared to the outside atmosphere).

"Could a couple of holes from the biggest bullets in the world -- about a half-inch in diameter -- cause an explosive decompression? Not really. The higher pressure cabin air would start to leak out, but the difference between the inside and the outside air pressure would not be sufficient to rip the plane's frame apart."

Hollywood v. the laws of physics

But haven't there been cases where a person with a gun managed to bring down an entire plane?

"There is only one known instance," say Kopel and Petteys, "in which a bullet hole in an aircraft frame yanked objects across the plane, expanded, and sucked a person out into the sky. That was the James Bond movie Goldfinger. The movie was not intended to teach reallife lessons about physics.

"Should the laws of physics somehow be altered so that a stray bullet could cause an explosive decompression, a big hole in a plane doesn't cause a crash. What's really dangerous about a sudden loss of cabin pressure is that passengers can't breathe. The procedure is to put on your oxygen mask and do a 'High Dive' to 10,000 feet (or to 3,000 feet above the highest terrainwhich means if you were west of Denver you would only dive to 17,000 feet before leveling off), thus entering an atmosphere that can sustain life. In fact, the altitude limitation placed on aircraft is based on their ability to descend to a breathable altitude in a given amount of time.


Sean Connery starred as James Bond in Goldfinger. Dave Kopel says, "There is only one known instance in which a bullet hole in an aircraft frame yanked objects across the plane, expanded, and sucked a person out into the sky. That was the James Bond movie Goldfinger."

"Would a direct hit on a hydraulic line cause a crash? No, because modern commercial aircraft are built with redundancies to cover the failure of any single system. And even if Goldfinger were real life and a small hole in an airplane frame could cause a crash, that is still a better result than the plane being turned into a weapon against an American city.

"We can no longer allow the assumption that hijackers are not intending to kill thousands.

"So armed air marshals are a good idea, but there are some limitations. The number of air marshals cannot even come close to providing full coverage for commercial flights."

Guns are the best deterrent

So if there is a physical difficulty in getting enough air marshals onto every domestic and international flight, then how do we create enough of a deterrent that dissuades potential hijackers from even attempting to commandeer a plane?

According to Kopel and Petteys: "The most realistic plan is to apply the policy behind air-marshal deployment on a broader scale, ensuring that every plane is protected.

"Federal law has always allowed federal law-enforcement personnel, such as FBI agents, to carry their firearms on board. Even though federal agents have sometimes committed crimes, including murder, on balance the law promotes safety.

"The policy should be expanded to allow state and local law enforcement personnel to carry firearms. Currently, state and local law enforcement must be on-duty (or required to go on duty immediately upon arrival). How stringently these rules enforced varies among airports and airlines. What about pilots?"

Rep. Ron Paul's bill would guarantee that pilots are in a position to save lives

So what about pilots? Kopel and Petteys point out that pilots can carry a gun onto planes if they jump over certain hurdles -- hurdles which are usually too high.

"It is already legal for pilots and stewards to carry firearms on a plane," the co-authors point out, "if they have the consent of the airline, and they have 'successfully completed a course of training in the use of firearms acceptable to the Administrator' of the Federal Aviation Administration (14 Code of Federal Regulations section 108.11)."

Of course, these requirements make it virtually impossible for pilots to carry guns on to planes. The bill introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (H.R. 2896) would guarantee that any commercial pilot could carry a firearm onto a plane -- no questions asked.

Kopel and Petteys agree that we should move towards arming pilots:

Both airlines and the federal government ought to encourage pilots and stewards to take the appropriate training, and become ready to protect their passengers. Surely if we can trust a pilot with a $50 million plane and the lives of three hundred passengers, we can trust him not to use a gun in way that would endanger his passengers or himself....
Anyone with a gun -- an air marshal, a law-enforcement officer, a pilot, a stewardess, or a trained citizen -- could make a mistake, and there is no guarantee that a mistake will never be made. But the nationwide American experience of air marshals and lawenforcement officers carrying guns on planes, the experience of the many states which issue handgun permits to law-abiding peaceful citizens, and the experience of [Israel's] El Al's flight crews all suggest that these risks are relatively small.
When we make it near-certain statistically that on every commercial flight, some of the crew and a few of the passengers will be armed, then we create the near-certainty that never again will the enemies of freedom be able to use American aircraft as a weapon against American cities.
We can also guarantee that allowing passengers and crew to carry the tools to defeat hijackers will not impose massive delays on the American traveling public or sharply reduce the utility of air travel for business and public, and therefore will not significantly harm the free American economy.

The full text of Kopel and Pettey's article can be read at http://www.nationalreview.com/kopel/kopel.shtml
on the web.


How to Stop Hijackers from Using Planes as Weapons


Missing from the Manhattan skyline are the World Trade Center towers which were destroyed in September's terrorist attacks. Author, Clayton Cramer, says that by allowing pilots to bear arms, "no terrorist would be able to use that plane to kill thousands of people by ramming a skyscraper."

by Clayton E. Cramer

As we discovered in September, hijackers don't just seize an airplane for transportation, and they aren't content to hold the passengers for ransom. They aren't even content anymore to kill just the passengers. Now they use airliners as weapons themselves. We must either find a way to stop terrorists from making this use of airliners, or end airline travel.

How did this happen? We have built our airline security systems around hijackers of the past. In the United States, hijackers were usually mentally disturbed people with a gun. Such people were seldom rational or organized enough to sneak a weapon through the poor quality security that most American airports have.

Am I being too harsh on our screening procedures? I don't think so. Back in the 1980s, a friend of mine carried a lead-lined bag in his briefcase, just to see if anyone would ask to see the contents. On the 21st time through a security checkpoint, they asked him to open his briefcase, and the lead-lined bag.

This problem is still with us today. I forgot to take a lockback knife with a 3.5" blade out of my pocket before getting on an airline flight in Salt Lake City last year. The metal detector found it, but the security guard let me take it on the flight. This didn't bother me, because I trust myself very much, but it made me wonder what else the security guards were letting onboard the plane.

We can certainly improve screening procedures, but like all such crisis-driven changes, we can't expect tightened security to continue indefinitely. The guards that screen passengers become bored; the passengers whine about long lines; the vast majority of questionable items that show up on the X-ray machines turn out to be nothing at all.

The knives that the terrorists apparently used in September may not even have gone through the security checkpoint at all, if caterers or cleaners smuggled the weapons onboard. If improved security is only a temporary solution, is there a long-term solution that prevents terrorists from using airliners as very large cannonballs?

We used to have sky marshals -- federal law enforcement officers who were aboard some flights, undercover, and armed with guns using special, low penetration ammunition to reduce the risk of damaging the airliner. To my knowledge, they never fired a gun onboard an airliner. If they ever arrested a hijacker, it received very little publicity. Unfortunately, sky marshals were not on every flight. If we brought them back, terrorists would probably take their chances. If terrorists hijacked four planes, as happened in September, it seems likely that at least three of those flights would have no sky marshals to stop them.

There's a simple solution: arm the pilots. We already trust airline pilots with the lives of hundreds of passengers. We pay airline pilots as well as we do, not for the hours of boredom of the average flight, but for those few seconds when extraordinary situations require extraordinary coolness and judgment. If you don't trust an airline pilot with a handgun, why would you trust them with the controls of the airplane?

This isn't as expensive or complex a proposal as you may think. Many airline pilots received their flight training in the military, and have received some handgun training. I would be startled if many airline pilots don't already own handguns.

The idea of the pilot shooting a terrorist onboard an airliner makes my blood run cold. The risk of hitting a passenger is high, especially when you consider that the pilot will almost always be shooting in the same direction as all of his passengers, and that terrorists will almost certainly take hostages. It is also true that a terrorist might decide to kill the passengers one by one trying to force the pilots to give up control of the plane, or just blow up the plane. This would mean hundreds of deaths onboard that airliner. But of this can be sure: no terrorist would be able to use that plane to kill thousands of people by ramming a skyscraper. I'll take my chances with the armed pilots, thank you.

Clayton E. Cramer's most recent book was Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic: Dueling, Southern Violence, and Moral Reform (Praeger Press, 1999). His website is: http://claytoncramer.com.


Project Exile Seasoned with Salsa

by Larry Pratt

When Tom Bean headed over the Mexican border at Laredo, TX in March of 1998 he was just planning to enjoy dinner after a hard day's work at a gun show.

He got back to the U.S. about six months later, having been incarcerated in a Mexican jail all that time. Aye, yai yai!

Before leaving the gun show, Bean instructed his assistants to remove all firearms and ammo from their Chevy Suburban because he knew that Mexico is one of those anti-gun paradises that ends up favoring corrupt cops and a flourishing criminal element.

At the checkpoint, one of the sharpeyed Mexican border police spotted a solitary box of ammo that had inadvertently been left in the back of the vehicle.

Although Bean's "accomplices" were released, he was convicted of a felony for having illegally imported ammunition. Probably Bean's biggest transgression was to not have had enough cash on hand to bribe the arresting officers.

Thanks to the International Prisoner Transfer Treaty, Bean was released from the Mexican jail in which he had spent six months. But then he spent another month locked up in the land of the free and the home of the brave!

When finally released, Bean was informed that he had lost his civil rights, including his right to defend his life with a firearm.

Since the anti-gunners have prohibited the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to restore the rights of deserving ex-felons, Bean was stuck. So he went to court to get his rights back.

Happily, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (where the Emerson case awaits a decision involving whether the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms) ruled that Bean's rights must be restored.

Because of the viciousness of antigun liberals such as then-Rep. Charles Schumer of New York, Tom Bean was deprived of his livelihood for three years since he was unable to renew his federal firearms license needed for his firearms business.

The BATF tried to keep Bean from getting his rights restored in court. They argued, quite against the letter of the law, that Bean should not have access to the courts to seek redress.

The BATF was operating in the spirit of Operation Exile and its renamed version, Project Safe Streets. This was zero tolerance enforcement of a gun law -- even though it was not even a U.S. law! And in the meantime, the Mexican felony had even been reduced to a misdemeanor as a result of all the publicity surrounding this miscarriage of justice.

Gun Owners Foundation was pleased to be able to assist Bean during his ordeal. Unhappily, we may expect more of these sad situations because of the current emphasis on enforcing all the gun laws.

It's bad enough when we see unconstitutional domestic gun laws being enforced, but this was not even a U.S. law. Arguably, the International Prisoner Transfer Treaty provided the supposed "justification" for upholding such an outrageous non-American gun law. Using treaties to violate the Constitution is a frequent subterfuge to "legitimize" unconstitutional laws of all kinds.

The Project Exile mentality seeks to punish all "gun offenses" with zero-tolerance. When Tom Bean lost his rights because of a box of bullets that were inadvertently left in his suburban, Gun Owners Foundation helped Bean get his rights restored.

The Second Amendment is not immune to this form of attack, and the "let's just enforce the gun laws we have" mantra of Project Exile only increases the threat to our liberties.

I like Mexican food, but I do not like Project Exile -- even with salsa.



Gun Owners Helping in Emerson Case

For almost two years, Gun Owners Foundation has had an amicus curiae brief pending before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of Dr. Timothy Joe Emerson.

In 1999, a federal district judge dismissed charges against Dr. Emerson, after he was accused of breaking a federal gun law that prohibits someone under a restraining order from possessing a gun.

Not surprisingly, the Clinton administration appealed the district court's decision. Now, almost two years later, gun owners still await a decision from the appeals court.

In the legal brief defending Emerson, GOF documents in detail, with scores of references, the fact that the Second Amendment says what it means and means what it says.

And it notes that what is most impressive about this almost total academic consensus is that many of the scholars that are cited are either self-identified "liberals" or unconnected with the pro-gun movement.

The legal brief conclusively shows that the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution codifies a fundamental, God-given right of individuals to keep and bear arms, independent of and unrelated to any power of the States to create and maintain a military force, and independent of and unrelated to any power of the national government to regulate commerce.

Readers can go to http://www.gunowners.com/amicus3.htm on the internet to read the GOF amicus brief.



Don't Sacrifice Freedom

by Glenn H. Reynolds

When things went wrong in ancient times, our pagan ancestors tried to appease the gods by destroying that which they held dearest, hoping that their sacrifice would purchase their safety.

In modern times, we sometimes resort to the same practice -- though what we are asked to place on the altar is not a goat, or even a child, but our freedom.

That's what happened after the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing when we enacted the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which drastically enhanced the power of law enforcement in all sorts of ways. Though even proponents of the act admitted that nothing in the law would have done anything to prevent the Oklahoma City bombing -- the supposed reason for its existence -- we still wound up passing the act.

After TWA Flight 800 went down, initial beliefs that the crash was an act of terrorism (a theory eventually disproved) made Americans willing to accept new "security" regulations. Those new regulations would not have prevented that disaster, and they did not prevent Tuesday's terrorist attack against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Things may not be as bad this time. After Oklahoma City, President Clinton was following the advice of political Svengali Dick Morris, who advised him to milk that event for all it was worth as a way of saving his embattled presidency. But sure as crabgrass seeks out cracks in a driveway, we will see another such effort even if there are no political operatives in the current White House who think like Morris.

I have no doubt, even as I write this, that longstanding bureaucratic wish lists are being transformed into "essential" anti-terrorist precautions. I also have no doubt that most of them won't do any more good than the dumb "are you a terrorist?" questions immigration officials have been asking embarking passengers for years.


The smoldering remains of the World Trade Center. Deroy Murdock writes, that "the Bill of Rights must not collapse with the twin towers."

Worse, this sort of overreaction is exactly what terrorists want. Make no mistake. They hate us not because of what we do but for what we are: rich, free, and happy. To the extent that we give away our freedom in the vain hope that its sacrifice will purchase us a little security, we are playing into their hands. And, as Benjamin Franklin famously predicted, in making that sacrifice we will in fact wind up with neither freedom nor security.

The good news is that many voices are already making this point.

Rush Limbaugh says that we didn't become a great nation by acting fearful, but by being free, and that we won't stay great by ceasing to be free. Deroy Murdock writes, that "the Bill of Rights must not collapse with the twin towers." Dave Kopel writes that "The main source of our strength is our freedom and open society. The United States already has the most powerful military in the world. We don't need the symbolic jaw, jaw, jaw of more laws, but the will to use our existing war power."

Kopel is right about this. "Increased security measures" don't stop terrorists, except for the occasional bumbling amateur. To put it bluntly, bullets stop terrorists. Terrorists do what they do because it works: it spreads terror, it inconveniences and disrupts societies, and it leads to the adoption of cumbersome security measures that increase the inconvenience and disruption and burdens law enforcement and antiterrorist forces with so many pointless tasks that they're actually less effective against future terrorism. If terrorism doesn't work, if the consequences are serious and the payoffs small, terrorism will stop.

Despite the wish lists of bureaucrats, let's remember who the real enemy is. And let's take the war to him, not to the American people.

Don't sacrifice freedom. It's freedom, as President Bush pointed out, we're defending.

Glenn H. Reynolds is Professor of Law at the University of Tennessee, and writes for the Instapundit.Com
website.


Mailbag

To the editor:

As a GOA member and a Captain of a major airline, I feel obligated to provide my professional opinion regarding the recent skyjackings which involved my company.

This tragedy could have been avoided (thwarted or deterred) had any of the pilots of those doomed aircraft had access to a firearm. However, asinine laws, absurd federal regulations, and inept federal bureaucrats prevent the crews from having the tools they need to defend the crew and passengers from attack.

Reports by the media suggest the pilots were overpowered by attackers armed only with knives. The thousands of deaths from this tragedy were made possible because those capable of defending against such an attack (the pilots and crew) were disarmed by our current laws and security policies.

Are we to remain disarmed by foolish, ineffective laws and policies, then placed in harm's way so we can be used as human cruise missiles?

Now that terrorists are no longer content to use car bombs, I must now assume, as Captain, that any future skyjack will result in my aircraft being used as guided missile. Without a firearm, my options are few and all end with a smoking fireball. With a pistol and frangible ammunition, my options allow me to fight back, maintain control and provide warning to Air Traffic Control.

Minimum-wage security guards have firearms for security. Yet college-educated, military-trained, highly disciplined pilots are prevented from being armed by foolish, ineffective laws.

Those of us who have extensive firearms training, military or otherwise, are incensed that foolish laws and inept federal bureaucrats prevent us from having the tools to defend our crew and passengers from this sort of attack.

If you were a passenger on one of those aircraft, would you prefer the pilots to have pistols, or would you rather be a smoking fireball?

For the sake of all, these rules and laws must be changed immediately. Remember, just one trained pilot with a firearm could have saved ten thousand American lives.n

Sincerely,

M.M. Nevada


Historical Lessons Can Guide Our Response to September's Terrorist Acts

David Kopel gave the country an important history lesson the day after the terrorist assault on our nation. Writing in the National Review Online, Kopel notes that, "as the failure of 'gun free school zones' demonstrates, bans on the lawful possession of weapons simply embolden evildoers by providing them with criminal safe zones. It is scandalous that a few hijackers with knives were able to hold scores of airline passengers at bay. As a good first step towards making commercial airplanes dangerous for hijackers, pilots should be issued handguns. Historian Clayton Cramer asks, 'If you don't trust an airline pilot with a handgun, why would you trust them with the controls of the airplane?'

"The training to shoot an attacker at very close range can be accomplished in a weekend. Ammunition and handgun models can be selected which have high frangibility and low penetrability -- meaning a low risk of the bullet penetrating the steel walls of the airplane, and or of over-penetrating a hijacker and hitting a passenger. In any case, the risks of hijackers facing resistance are much lower than the risks of hijackers able to act with impunity.

"Cabin stewards who wish to carry concealed weapons should likewise be authorized to do so.

"And passengers? Forty years ago, sportsmen routinely stowed their shotguns in overhead luggage compartments. There were no laws against bringing guns onto planes. Whatever the benefits that have resulted from the last three decades of laws against passengers carrying lawfully owned firearms onto planes, they have been far outweighed by a single day's deaths which are the direct result of turning planes into safe zones for terrorists."


More Guns, Less Terrorism

by Larry Pratt

The war against self-defense has opened the door to the tragedies produced by the terrorists who launched attacks against the United States.

The anti-gun groups such as the Brady Center to Stop Gun Violence have been cheerleaders for the campaign to convince Americans that guns in private hands are bad.

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) got elected to Congress largely on a wave of sympathy for her husband who was gunned down in a multiple killing on a Long Island commuter train. In a TV debate I asked her if it would have been wrong for someone to have pulled a concealed firearm (carried legally or illegally) and shot the murderer.

Rep. McCarthy had no response to that. Neither did she respond when I asked her if it was wrong for the Mississippi high school assistant principal to get a gun and illegally carry it onto a school yard, where he stopped a student who was killing other kids.

Rep. McCarthy had no response at all. When I challenged her by saying that her silence meant that she did not believe in self-defense, she still had no response.

The ability to defend ourselves is the most basic right of all. It has been denigrated and circumscribed until many Americans are in an impossible situation. Where they live and work they are legally required to be unarmed as they face a well-armed criminal element.

The gun grabber crowd would have the police crack down on people who simply possess and carry guns. This is because their answer to crime is to criminalize self-defense and ignore the criminals.

That philosophy facilitated terrorists with knives being able to take over four airliners in which gun control had worked 100%. No armed passengers. No air marshals. No armed pilots. Just helpless victims.

Rep. Ron Paul has introduced a bill that begins to reverse the present insanity. H.R. 2896 would allow pilots to carry firearms.

How different might have been the hijacked airline tragedies if the knife-wielding terrorists had been met by gun-firing pilots? I have had Brady Center types cry out with alarm when shooting back was offered as the answer to crime: "Are you crazy? Innocent people could be shot!"

Let's be honest. Of course an innocent person could be shot. And the force of that concern has resulted in there having been no alternative to 266 passengers on four airliners being murdered, along with hundreds and hundreds of victims at Ground Zero.

Life can be risky. But the solution is not to surrender the responsibility for self-defense to the government. The government has proven they cannot protect us.

If we cede our most basic of rights to the government, what response do we have to the assertion by politicians and bureaucrats that we should also not be able to take care of our own retirement, health, education of our children and the use of our property.

A wonderful offer has been made by Ignatius Piazza of the Front Site Firearms Training Institute of Las Vegas, Nevada. Front Sight is offering to train for free any pilot wishing to carry a concealed firearm in his cockpit. Hopefully Piazza will be meeting lots of pilots when Ron Paul's bill becomes law.

This is the time to tell the anti-self defense crowd that blood is on their hands, and we are taking back control of our own defense. Their deadly experiment in criminalizing self-defense must come to an end. Let's get behind Rep. Paul's first step in rolling back the disarmament crowd's anti-gun laws and get H.R. 2896 through Congress and signed by the President.

We already trust the lives of passengers to these pilots. We should also be eager to trust the pilots to protect their passengers with their guns.