After 9/11, the US began a new program allowing airline pilots to arm themselves in order to defend the cockpit against terrorist incursion. Along with air marshals, the armed pilots formed a last line of defense against hijackings and worse, such as the al-Qaeda actions that killed 3,000 Americans by using commercial jets as guided missiles. The Washington Times reports that the Obama administration has decided to end the program without letting anyone know about it:
After the September 11 attacks, commercial airline pilots were allowed to carry guns if they completed a federal-safety program. No longer would unarmed pilots be defenseless as remorseless hijackers seized control of aircraft and rammed them into buildings.
Now President Obama is quietly ending the federal firearms program, risking public safety on airlines in the name of an anti-gun ideology.
The Obama administration this past week diverted some $2 million from the pilot training program to hire more supervisory staff, who will engage in field inspections of pilots.
It’s not just a diversion of funds from training, either. The Times editorial accuses the new administration of hostility towards the program and using bureaucratic red tape to kneecap it. The pilots who want to defend themselves and their passengers cannot speak out publicly for fear of retribution:
Since Mr. Obama’s election, pilots have told us that the approval process for letting pilots carry guns on planes slowed significantly. Last week the problem went from bad to worse. Federal Flight Deck Officers – the pilots who have been approved to carry guns – indicate that the approval process has stalled out.
Pilots cannot openly speak about the changing policies for fear of retaliation from the Transportation Security Administration. Pilots who act in any way that causes a “loss of confidence” in the armed pilot program risk criminal prosecution as well as their removal from the program. Despite these threats, pilots in the Federal Flight Deck Officers program have raised real concerns in multiple interviews.
The only people wanting to disarm pilots, as the Times notes in its editorial, are anti-gun extremists … and terrorists. It costs next to nothing to have a pilot arm him/herself. The $2 million in training directly contributes to airline safety. Compare that spending to Porkulus, where $5 million of the $700 billion in government money will go to buy snowmakers. In Duluth.
Only about 3% of all flights have air marshals. That makes for a good deterrent for a single hijacker, but AQ and other organized terrorists can overcome that by using multiple attacks, just as they did on 9/11. Cockpit doors have been reinforced, but they are not impenetrable. An armed pilot, properly trained and equipped, can make the difference between life and death, and not just for the people in the air.
If the Obama administration is pandering to the anti-gun lobby with this initiative — and it’s hard to see why else Obama would shut down this program — then gun owners should dread what comes next out of the White House.
Update: Radio Vice Online is skeptical, and takes a look at the money — which is still flowing to the program.