3/02 Arm The Pilots Now!

Arm The Pilots Now!
Larry Pratt

The question of whether airline pilots should be armed is again in the news. And the arguments against doing this are as lame as they have been in the past.

Expressing his “personal opinion,” Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta says, in part: “I don’t feel that we should have lethal weapons in the cockpit. I believe that stun guns, or tasers, as they’re referred to, can be a possibility.”

But, Howard Attarian of the Airline Pilots Association (APA), says, on CNN (3/5/02):

    We’re not opposed to tasers. But, obviously, in the most recent events of September 11, where there were multiple hijackers, tasers certainly would not be an effective deterrent to four or five individuals trying to bring an airplane down, commandeer the cockpit and overcome the crew. And we feel that the best deterrent for that is to create the multiple zones of protection. And in doing so, arming our pilots with the lethal gun would be a deterrent to that.

And in an interview on the Fox cable TV network with Neal Cavuto (3/7/02), Phil Smith, chairman of Taser International, unwittingly revealed the problem with tasers. When asked how a taser works, he said: “It will disable you as long as the electricity is on for quite an extended period of time. It can be — as long as you keep the electricity on. But it’s a perfect weapon for a cockpit because it is closed quarters.”

But such a weapon, however, is not perfect for pilots. When confronted with a hijacker or hijackers, particularly an armed hijacker or armed hijackers, the last weapon you want pilots to have is one that takes an “extended period of time” to work and then only “disables” the terrorist/terrorists. What you want is a weapon that kills immediately and that means a gun.

Duane Woerth, President of the APA, notes, on this same CNN program (3/5/02), that as things stand now pilots are not armed, and yet an animal control officer from Kentucky, with a permit, can bring his gun on board. He adds: “This is all kind of crazy in our view. And the guys who need to defend their cockpits against terrorists can’t have one.” A recent APA survey showed 73 percent of pilots favor arming pilots; 24 percent oppose this.

Tom Ridge, head of the Office Of Homeland Security, has said, on the Cable News Network (2/9/02):

    I don’t think it’s necessary for [pilots] to be armed, but I’m going to let the FAA and the air and aviation industry make that final determination…. I don’t think the need has arisen yet…. I still don’t think there’s a need to put side arms on your pilots and co-pilots. There are other ways to protect them.

A statement issued by the Allied Pilots Association (3/5/02), the collective bargaining agent for the 11,000 pilots of American Airlines, says, in part, “it is unfortunate that Mr. Ridge has chosen to speak out against enabling the nation’s commercial pilots to serve as an effective last line of defense against a determined foe…. We hope that the facts of the matter will eventually compel Mr. Ridge to modify his stance.” A recent survey of this group’s members showed that they support enabling pilots to carry firearms on a voluntary basis by a nine-to-one margin.

Ridge’s opposition to arming pilots comes as no real surprise since he has not been solid on the gun issue. According to the Associated Press (5/6/1994), when he was a U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania, Ridge was among those House Members who voted for a ban on 19 types of semi-automatic weapons. When Ridge was Governor of Pennsylvania he signed into law a package of gun control laws which was endorsed by, among others, Handgun Control Inc., according to United Press International (6/6/1995).

The Allentown, Pennsylvania, Morning Call newspaper (1/30/1998) reported that a few years earlier, Elmer Gates, a big contributor to the Republican Party, asked Ridge to return $11,150 he had given him for his gubernatorial campaign because, when he was in the U.S. Congress, he voted “for a gun control measure that clashed with the Bill of Rights.”

Finally, the Associated Press has reported (5/10/1999) Mrs. Ridge as urging schools and communities to apply for $4 million in grants in the budget signed into law by her husband who at the time was Governor of Pennsylvania. This money was for 10 violence prevention programs recommended by the University of Colorado’s Center For The Study And Prevention of Violence (CSPV).

The website of the CSPV has links to such rabid, anti-Second Amendment gun-grabbers as the: Coalition To Stop Gun Violence; Educational Fund To End Handgun Violence; Handgun Control, Inc. (now the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence); Physicians For Social Responsibility; and Violence Policy Center. In addition, on this same website one can read all sorts of anti-gun articles and research.

An article in the Los Angeles Times (2/17/02) notes that American Airlines pilot Capt. Linda Pauwels is an “anti-gun” Mom who keeps her two young children away from violent video games and television shows. Still, even this lady realizes the importance of arming pilots. She says: “Barriers are broken and security systems fail. If there is more than one person who wants to wreak havoc, it’s possible that they may be able to penetrate the cockpit barrier. If these people knew that you were armed, that would change things.”

Arming pilots is all the more urgent in view of news that government investigators successfully smuggled guns, knives and explosives through “security.”

This is why I repeat: Let’s arm our pilots and co-pilots — the sooner the better. This is literally a life-and-death issue.