- The Washington Times - Friday, May 3, 2002

Last month, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge came out in public against the idea of arming flight crews in order to provide them some means of fighting back against an attempted terrorist assault or hijacking once airborne. "I don't think we want to equip our pilots with firearms," Mr. Ridge said in an interview. "That doesn't make a lot of sense to me." Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta has taken essentially the same position, which, together with Mr. Ridge's recent statements, may be a good indicator of the president's view as well.
It's hard to understand, though, why the administration would oppose the idea of arming pilots an idea that has broad-based support among the pilots themselves, as well as many Americans. "Why can I not have one last chance to save my passengers and crew?" J.J. Lowers, an airline captain from Orange County, Calif., told CNN.
As this page has observed on previous occasions, many, perhaps most, pilots of large commercial jets are ex-military and thus are already quite familiar with the safe handling of firearms. Those without such experience could certainly be trained. Also, subsonic, low-velocity ammunition is readily available that would address the concern about potential catastrophic depressurization of the aircraft as a result of a bullet penetrating the exterior skin of the plane. But the most salient point, perhaps, is that every person who steps aboard an airplane is implicitly placing his life in the hands of the pilot and the flight crew already irrespective of the issue of firearms. That providing these highly trusted pros with the means of defending not just themselves but us as well seems perfectly reasonable. After all, we're not talking about handing dangerous weapons to just anybody. Surely the points made above address any such concerns.
Yet instead of sensible policy, we get the sort of proposals that only those unfamiliar with the facts, or who may be afflicted by some unreasonable aversion to guns as such, could advocate. For example, Mr. Mineta has suggested that instead of handguns, pilots be issued electric stun guns. But stun guns only work at close range and may not work even then.
If there are any good, solid objections to the idea based on facts and reason and not hyperbolic, even irrational fear of handguns as such then we'd like to hear them. President Bush, who is a former military pilot himself, may eventually diverge from the opinions expressed by his cabinet officials.
Here's to hoping he does.

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