Let our Pilots Fight Back Against Terror

Frontpage Magazine

FrontPageMagazine.com | September 26, 2001

SELF-DEFENSE is the ultimate civil right. If a citizen loses that right, all other rights become illusions.

In past decades, as the concept of an endless prosperity appeared to become a reality, Americans became complacent and believed they were free from any threats, whether foreign or domestic. The Attack on America of September 11, 2001 brought home the vulnerability of our society to terrorists who willingly die for their cause.

Within the space of 60 minutes, those terrorists gave us a reality check. No longer do we believe that our nation has been blessed with endless prosperity. No longer do we believe that our world is a rational one bound by the rule of law. We now know that personal security has become a personal responsibility.

Facing such a calamity has caused many people to reexamine their ideas and positions. Reports of Americans throughout the nation running to their neighborhood gun store to purchase guns and ammunition should not surprise anyone.

According to a friend of mine who runs a gun store in Fairfax County, Virginia, people were standing in line to buy firearms. Most of them came into the store to buy a handgun for self-protection. When they found out there was a 3-day county waiting period before the buyer could take the handgun home, many who had never purchased a handgun before became incensed. These were the same people who only a day before would have considered a waiting period just an inconvenience.

According to the September 21 Los Angeles Times, the California Department of Justice reported that during the week of September 11 more than 9,000 firearms were purchased, while for the comparable week a year ago the figure was 6,900. Tony Cucchiara, President of Trader’s Sports of San Leandro, CA indicated that people were also buying ammunition, gas masks, camouflage clothing, water containers, and MREs, easily prepared dried food. His best selling MRE was Fettuccini Alfredo, which led Cucchiara to speculate that his new customers are residents of upscale communities who want 12-gauge shotguns and handguns for personal protection.

Southern Californians have done this before. In the 1960s, during the Watts riots and after the assassination of Martin Luther King, fearful people jammed gun stores. In April 1991 when South Central Los Angeles erupted after the acquittal of the four police officers who had beaten Rodney King, the Los Angeles government ordered the gun stores closed, denying everyone the right to self-defense. Fearful non-gun owning residents resorted to calling their gun-owning friends in search of a firearm they could borrow. Even Charlton Heston was asked by some of his Hollywood anti-gun colleagues for the loan of a firearm or two as parts of Los Angeles burned to the ground.

Unfortunately it takes coming face to face with a clear and imminent danger to change minds of those who urge the abolishment of the Second Amendment and its corollary, the right to self-defense.

Such is the case of the Airline Pilots Association of America (ALPA). In the wake of the hijackings of the 1960’s and 1970's, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and ALPA instructed pilots to remain calm and cooperate with any hijacker. After the Attack on America, Steve Luckly, Chairman of ALPA’s national security committee issued a new instruction that states, The pilot must be both mentally and physically prepared to take the life of a cockpit intruder.

Since commercial aviation has been restored, several news reports tell of airline captains instructing their passengers on what to do if someone attempts to take over the airplane. According to a Los Angeles Times story, ALPA Executive Director Terry McVenes was quoted as saying, Guns [for pilots] are not off the table, while many airline pilots have publicly advocated the arming of pilots.

Frontsight Training Institute located outside Las Vegas, NV has offered to train every airline pilot in the world free of charge. Their announcement reads:

Front Sight Firearms Training Institute, which claims to be the world leader in providing intensified courses in the defensive use of firearms for private citizens and law enforcement alike, feels they have the answer to stopping commercial airliners from being used as ballistic missiles. Front Sight will train every commercial pilot in the world FREE OF CHARGE in the defensive use of the handgun.

Yet, as ALPA has reconsidered its 30-year position, the FAA announced that it was rescinding its regulation on flight crews being armed. On September 20th Paul Takemoto, FAA spokesman said, The new rule will not include authorization (to carry firearms) and crew members will no longer be allowed to carry arms.

This announcement did not sit well with ALPA, which is now calling for allowing pilots to be armed. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) has introduced House Resolution 2896 to ensure that "no department or agency of the Federal Government shall prohibit any pilot, copilot, or navigator of an aircraft, or any law enforcement personnel specifically detailed for the protection of that aircraft, from carrying a firearm."

Not to allow airline pilots the right of self-defense puts the entire airline: pilots, flight attendants, and passengers at risk. If some of those pilots on September 11th had been armed, it is possible that thousands of lives may have been saved. American pilots, like American citizens, should retain their right to self-defense.

Captain Brad Rohdenburg of American Airlines in a letter to the Wall Street Journal put it best,

“We need a last line of defense to keep hijackers out of the cockpit. Federal agents from even the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education and the Smithsonian Institution are allowed to carry guns on commercial airlines. Why not the pilots who are responsible for the aircraft? Many of us already have better firearms training than that provided to those agencies — and we're willing to get more at our own expense.

I believe that hardened cockpit doors and armed pilots could have prevented all four of those hijackings. Make some of us sky marshals. How much more cost-effective could a security program be? At the very least, let us carry pocket knives again. As Benjamin Franklin said, If you make yourselves sheep, the wolves will eat you.

Tanya K. Metaksa is the former executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action. She is the author of Safe, Not Sorry a self-protection manual, published in 1997. She has appeared on numerous talk and interview shows such as "Crossfire," the "Today" show, "Nightline," "This Week with David Brinkley" and the "McNeil-Lehrer Hour," among others.