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EDITORIAL: Obama to shoot down armed pilots

Removing ‘last line of defense’ would be risky move

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The Obama administration's hatred for the Second Amendment has reached new heights. After nearly a decade of safe operation, the White House is looking to reduce the number of pilots who provide an extra layer of security against airborne terror by packing a pistol in the cockpit. This plan shouldn't fly.

The federal flight-deck officer program was put in place as a direct response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists barged into the cockpits and seized control of airliners. The initiative provides $25.5 million for weapons training for pilots, including for cargo carriers and private charters. President Obama's budget would slash the amount in half.

Uncle Sam spends about $4,800 per pilot for the training administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), but aside from that, it doesn't suffer from the usual bureaucratic bloat. Participants must pay their own travel, lodging and meal expenses. About 10,000 pilots have been certified, but the Obama administration's goal is to see the number of armed aviators dwindle.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended her department's 2013 proposed budget before the House Committee on Homeland Security in February. "The cuts are predicated on the fact that the program is not risk-based," she claimed. That's government-speak for wanting more money to grope people who aren't terrorists instead of doing something that would stop actual terrorists.

Rep. Chip Cravaack, Minnesota Republican, who himself was a carrying flight-deck officer before entering Congress, responded by asking Miss Napolitano whether she viewed an armed pilot as "the last line of defense" against an airborne attack. She demurred, replying, "I think the armed [sic] cockpit door is."

That's interesting since the secretary has often dismissed the notion that a physical barrier is a reliable form of security. "Show me a 50-foot wall, and I'll show you a 51-foot ladder," she repeated when opposing a border fence while governor of Arizona. As Homeland Security chief, she has bolstered the armed U.S. Border Patrol to halt intruders on the ground but opposes similar measures to thwart attackers in the air. A firearm in the grip of a certified user is no less of a deterrent at altitude.

Mr. Cravaack added an amendment to Homeland Security's 2013 budget that boosts the armed-pilot program's funding by $10 million instead of reducing it. The measure, which would be paid for by corresponding cuts to compensation for TSA screeners, was passed by the House along with the department's budget on June 7. The Senate has yet to vote on its version.

Concealed-carry laws have proved effective in thwarting crime across the United States, and pistol-packing pilots in the air would provide the same deterrent effect. If Miss Napolitano is interested in saving money by jettisoning security programs that are "not risk-based," then TSA's easily defeated, billion-dollar, pornographic, scanning-and-groping operation should be the first to go.

The Washington Times

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