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March 4, 2002
ALPA President Discounts Administration Spin On Guns In Cockpit; Says Let Regulatory Process Work
WASHINGTON, D.C.--- Captain Duane Woerth, president of the nation’s largest and oldest pilot union, today responded to public statements that Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge made against pilots being allowed to keep firearms in the cockpit to defend against terrorists:
"The Bush Administration’s most recently stated opposition to arming pilots is no surprise to us. From Sept. 25, the day that ALPA came out in favor of arming pilots, the Administration came out against it. In fact, it came out against a number of aviation security enhancements, including the federalization of airport screeners and federal economic relief for airlines — yet we’ve seen Congress approve these measures after extensive study of the situation.
"In the same manner, Congress has paved the way for a voluntary program that allows highly trained pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit as a last line of defense against the kind of terrorism that this nation encountered on September 11, and ALPA stands ready to work with Congress, the new Transportation Security Administration and the DOT to overcome any obstacles and put a reliable program into effect as soon as possible. To that end, ALPA has filed a formal petition for rulemaking with the DOT seeking new rules that would allow pilots to have firearms in the cockpit under specific conditions, and we hope to see action on this rule in the near future.
"We urge the Bush Administration to put personal opinions aside and thoroughly review this issue by assessing the 6,700 public comments the DOT received and conducting feasibility studies with law enforcement and other experts in the field. These steps must be taken and the regulatory process must be given an opportunity to work.
"The Administration’s preference for stun guns over firearms in the cockpit and its claims that firearms pose undue danger to the aircraft and passengers can only be attributed to naïveté or a lack of accurate information. First, manufacturer data and law enforcement experience demonstrate that the small cockpit environment and the unreliability of stun guns make their use inappropriate. To use stun guns effectively requires the target to be within a specific distance range that may not be possible within the confines of an airline cockpit. Even police officers require two additional personnel with firearms as backup before stun guns are used. Second, because pilots would engage a firearm only in the direst of circumstances as a last line of defense, the concerns about stray bullets or the unlikely event of aircraft depressurization is irrelevant.
"A large majority of airline pilots and the American public views firearms in the cockpit as a necessary deterrent to terrorism, recognizing that it is but one in a myriad of security measures that must be implemented to protect our nation. And as long as cockpit doors have to be opened for pilots to gain access to meal service and lavatories, there is a risk that a terrorist can slip through security and get into the cockpit. We need to give pilots a viable weapon to deal with this very real threat."
The text of the petition can be viewed at http://www.alpa.org at the Feb. 28 link. The text of ALPA’s comments to TSA’s docket can be accessed at the Feb. 13 link.
ALPA is the world’s oldest and largest airline pilot union founded in 1931. It represents 64,000 airline pilots at 45 carriers in the U.S. and Canada.
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ALPA CONTACT: Anya Piazza (703) 481-4440