Gun Owners Triumph In The Senate

Gun Owners Triumph in the Senate
— Smith armed pilots’ provision passes overwhelmingly

(Friday, September 6, 2002) — Your hard work in lobbying your legislators has paid off yet again. Yesterday, the Senate voted to arm pilots by a huge majority of 87-6. Senator Bob Smith (R-NH) was the author of the amendment, and spoke forcefully in favor of its passage.

“The [alternative] of not having guns in the cockpits or trained crews,” said Sen. Smith, is having “F-16s which will shoot down commercial aircraft with Americans on board, a terrible scenario to have happen.”

“I believe we have to give our nation’s pilots and flight attendants a fighting chance against these terrorists before our government has to resort to shooting down an airplane,” Smith stated.

Meanwhile, onlookers on Capitol Hill were astonished at what appeared to be efforts by the Bush administration to peel off support for the Smith provision.

In the 24 hours leading up to the vote, the administration announced it would implement a “test” program allowing a mere 1,000 pilots to be armed. The timing of this announcement by the Bush administration — after having refused for several months to arm pilots at all — was not missed by those in Congress.

Even anti-gun Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), a cosponsor of the Smith amendment, was concerned about the President’s last-minute proposal. “I very much worry,” Boxer said, “that some kind of a test program is going to be put forward by the administration as opposed to what we are doing.”

Her fears were well founded, for no doubt, the “test” program could have been intended as a means of deflating support for the Smith amendment… which will arm ALL pilots who wish to carry a gun. Just as debate was underway in the Senate, administration officials seemed to do an “about face” when they released a letter outlining all the supposed complications with arming pilots.

After the overwhelming vote in the Senate, the administration reluctantly said it was willing to work with Congress to implement such a plan if it becomes law. Perhaps. But one should not forget that Congress already passed legislation last November, authorizing the administration to train and arm pilots. So far, the administration has refused to implement that law.

Because of this foot-dragging, the House of Representatives had to pass legislation this past July to force the administration to arm pilots who want to carry. That legislation passed by a veto-proof majority of 310-113.

Likewise, the Smith amendment passed yesterday with comparatively few dissenting votes. The following Senators voted AGAINST the amendment: Chafee (R-RI), Corzine (D-NJ), Jeffords (D-VT), Kennedy (D-MA), Reed (D-RI), and Specter (R-PA).

The Smith provision is slightly different from the one that passed in the House. Like its House counterpart, the Smith provision mandates the arming of any pilot who so desires. But the Senate language also provides training for airplane stewards.

While the House bill was passed as a stand-alone measure, the Senate amendment was passed as part of a larger bill (the Homeland Security Act of 2002).

Please stay tuned for future updates as to the status of the armed pilots language.