Fenger Pointing

Becky Fenger | April 15, 2009

Becky FengerDisarming pilots

The airwaves were jumping on Easter Sunday with news of the rescue of U.S. hostage Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama that had been set upon by Somali pirates five days earlier. Sharpshooting Navy SEALs finally got a split-second chance to put bullets through the heads of Phillips' captors, ending a grueling scenario that has become commonplace in the Indian Ocean. Saved by firepower.

It is instructive that President Barack Obama, as reported in the Washington Times last month, is stealthily trying to end the armed pilot program instituted in 2002 following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. A key provision of the Homeland Security bill allowed for arming any pilot of a passenger airliner who passed screening and took a training course. This made eminent sense to have a firearm on the flight deck. Many pilots are former military men anyway.

A year later, airline pilots had had enough of the stonewalling by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and called press conferences simultaneously in four airports across the country to talk to the flying public about attempts to erode their safety. "A cockpit armed with lethal force is the first line of deterrence and the final line of defense," maintained Captain David Mackett, Executive Vice President of the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance, at the time. He warned that only a tiny fraction of flights would be carrying air marshals, and that recent cutbacks in that program really concerned him.

Congress had overwhelmingly passed the law in 2002 to protect aircraft against any future terrorist hijackings. Yet a year later fewer than 150 of the estimated 40,000 pilots who had applied for the Federal Flight Deck Officers program had been approved to carry a firearm, according to Captain Bob Lambert, APSA president. The TSA had done everything to disqualify them from the program, from ludicrous levels of background and psychological testing (that the pilots had already passed) to limiting notification of classes and locations. Finding the classes was akin to deciphering where the next "rave" was being held. "At the current rate, it would take fifteen years to train these pilots," complained Lambert.

Worse, last minute language added to the FAA Reauthorization Bill tried to force pilots training at a civilian facility to pay $6,000 out of their own pockets for the course or they would be denied a permit! Are you kidding me? It wouldn't surprise me if U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.), were behind that clever little wrench-in-the-gears move.
In case the hoplophobics hadn't crippled the program enough, there's this gem: Although armed employees of 26 agencies, such as the U.S. Printing Office and the Library of Congress, were permitted to carry concealed firearms on planes, pilots were forced to pack them away in a lock box! This is, of course, counting on the infinite patience of the haggle-tooth terrorist to twiddle his itching trigger thumbs while the pilot looks for a key. Alan Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, laments: "We trust commercial airline pilots with $500 million aircraft. We can certainly trust them with $500 pistols to defend those planes, and the lives of their passengers."

President Obama wants to cancel the program entirely. He is quietly diverting approximately $2 million from the training program – as Washington Times informs us – "to hire 'supervisory' staff, whose job, it appears, will be to harass armed pilots through unnecessary field inspections."

Why not? Just like comedienne Rosie O'Donnell wants to strip the populace of all guns while safe in the knowledge that her armed bodyguards will protect her own children, so Obama is content to make our air travel more susceptible to terrorist attack from the safety of his armed Air Force One. As the Washington Times printed: "What Obama is doing is risking public safety in the name of an anti-gun ideology.”

It is entertaining to watch the major media go after anyone who suggests that Obama's goal is to heavily restrict gun ownership in America. And make no mistake about it. Barack Obama is chomping at the bit to turn his attention to gun control, if only he weren't distracted by a couple of messy wars and an economy in shreds. As reported by his college classmate, John R. Lott, Jr., Obama disdainfully refused to even discuss the possible safety advantages of gun ownership with him. If Obama were an honest man, he would disarm his bodyguards. Or perhaps, his life is worth more than yours.