3/07 Sen. Bunning Statement Re: Arming Pilots
By U.S. Senator Jim Bunning
Mr. President, I call up amendment number 334 and ask for its immediate consideration.
I ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with. This amendment makes changes to the implementation of the Federal flight deck officer program, commonly referred to as the Armed Pilots Program, to require the Department of Homeland Security to implement the program as Congress originally intended.
Four years after Congress created this program; the Department of Homeland Security continues to drag its heels on providing Federal flight deck officers, commonly known as FFDO’s or armed pilots, with the necessary tools needed to prevent another September 11 type attack.
My amendment will ensure that all armed pilots can truly act as a real defense against hijackings on commercial flights.
This amendment would end the ridiculous practice of forcing armed pilots to carry their guns in locked boxes and would allow them to carry the guns on their body where the gun is easier to reach and more discreet to carry. No other Federal law enforcement officer is forced to carry a firearm in a “lock box” and federal law enforcement officials agree that carriage on the body of an officer is the best way for a law enforcement official to carry a firearm to ensure that threats can be stopped in the safest way possible.
In addition to putting more armed pilots in the skies, this amendment will also put armed pilots on international flights. The current law for the armed pilots program allows pilots on these flights, but so far the State Department has been slow on entering into negotiations with other countries to allow this to occur. My amendment requires the State Department to negotiate agreements with other governments to get armed pilots on international flights.
Over the last few years many international flights have been cancelled because of terrorist threats. This amendment will also allow armed pilots to protect the flights of U.S. airlines and free up air marshals so more can be put on targeted foreign flights that we know terrorists are targeting.
This amendment also provides for the issuance of a metal badge for armed pilots so that they can easily identify themselves in a crisis situation. It is important to make sure that these pilots have a means to identify themselves so that Air Marshalls and other passengers know who they are and that they are lawfully carrying a firearm.
It also requires TSA to give armed pilots the same screening protocols as all other Federal law enforcement officers so that a terrorist cannot easily identify them at a security checkpoint. Under current TSA requirements, all armed pilots must be screened publicly in plain view of everyone at the security checkpoint as opposed to Federal law enforcement officers who are screened behind closed doors.
Finally, this amendment would give pilots basic due process. It requires the Department of Homeland Security to establish procedures to give notice and appeal rights when making any decisions against the pilots. Currently the pilots have no recourse. I believe these changes that update the law governing the Federal flight deck officers program are vitally needed to ensure that this voluntary programs runs as it was intended to run and would encourage more pilots to enter into it.
I have spoken many times in the past on the merits of this program and the need for it. It saddens me that I must once again be forced to ask TSA to start implementing this program as it was originally intended. Now we once again must force TSA’s hand to get enough pilots armed to actually create a strong defense against terrorists in the air.
We currently have an opportunity to speed this program up and force TSA to do what Congress intended by adopting my amendment. I urge my colleagues to join me and pass this amendment.
Thank you, Mr. President.