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Arming Pilots Takes Another Critical Step Forward

Friday, June 28, 2002

On Wednesday, the House Transportation Committee approved H.R. 4635—legislation that would mandate the establishment of a program that would allow as many as 1,400 (2%) properly trained commercial airline pilots to have access to firearms as a last line of defense against terrorist hijackers. The test program has bipartisan support, and would give preference to pilots with prior military or law-enforcement experience. While NRA would like to see this option extended to all properly trained flight deck crew, this legislation represents a good first step in the right direction, and was passed in committee on a voice vote.

There are lawmakers who would also like to see the program expanded to more pilots. During Wednesday’s Committee meeting, U.S. Representative John Thune (R-S.D.) discussed increasing to 10% the amount of pilots who could take part in this test program. Rep. Thune may offer his amendment when the bill is brought up for consideration before the full House, which could occur in the near future.

We can also expect anti-gun extremists to propose amendments that would completely gut this legislation, as their sole focus on airline security seems to be relying on reinforced cockpit doors and enhanced screening procedures at airports. On Wednesday, U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) discussed several proposals she intends to introduce that would eviscerate H.R. 4635. She would allow the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)—currently headed by John Magaw (head of the BATF under the Clinton/Gore Administration)—to terminate the test program, and would require armed pilots to store their firearms in lockers at airports.

The full House should take up H.R. 4635 for consideration shortly after lawmakers return from their Independence Day District Work Period on July 8. The bill now has 55 co-sponsors, and support for it continues to grow. And while enhancing airline and airport security in other areas is certainly a laudable goal, it should be done in concert with arming pilots, not instead, as anti-gun lawmakers continue to suggest. As U.S. Representative Richard Baker (R-La.) told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, "In this day and age, you just can’t have too much security to help people feel protected from even the most unforeseeable threats, and [H.R. 4635] simply tries to make sure all the bases are covered."

Meanwhile, S. 2554, the U.S. Senate bill that seeks to arm properly trained flight deck crew, has 11 co-sponsors, and could use more. Please contact your U.S. Senators at (202) 224-3121 and urge them to co-sponsor S. 2554. And call your U.S. Representative at (202) 225-3121 and urge him to co-sponsor H.R. 4635, to oppose any anti-gun amendments to the bill, and to vote for it when it is brought to the House floor for consideration. You can find additional contact information by using our "Write Your Reps" tool.

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