On May 11, the Washington Times reported on congressional testimony in support of arming merchant mariners to allow them to defend their crew and ships from pirate attacks.
In testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Captain Richard Phillips, who was abducted by pirates last month, and who was freed through the heroic action of U.S. Navy snipers, told the committee that armed crews "should be part of the overall debate about how to defend ourselves against criminals on the seas."
With the increase in pirate attacks on the high seas, many are now realizing that firearms and armed citizens can be effective criminal deterrents at sea, as they are on land. Right now, vessels are target-rich environments for piracy due to the high level of probability that seamen are unarmed.
As was the case with arming trained commercial airline pilots in the wake of 9/11, legitimate consideration should be given to extending the right to self-defense to ship crews who are more regularly facing criminal attack.
As the Times article concludes:
"In May 5 Senate testimony, Philip J. Shapiro, chief executive officer of Liberty Maritime Corp., said: 'In light of the recent threats to U.S. merchant mariners, we respectfully request that Congress consider clearing the obstacles that currently block ship owners from arming our vessels.' Most nations do not permit armed vessels to enter their waters. But developments in the air suggest a solution for change on the high seas. In 2007, the Homeland Security Department and the State Department announced they would begin negotiating with other countries to let armed pilots carry their guns with them when they fly into foreign destinations. It is time to initiate an even more serious effort to let ship crews carry guns. Armed seamen would be less expensive than giving each merchant ship its own naval escort."