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February 26, 2003
ALPA Critical of TSA Rule for Pilots Carrying Firearms
WASHINGTON, D.C.--- The head of the nation’s largest pilot union has told the Transportation Security Administration that the new rule governing how armed pilots would carry their firearms creates more problems than it solves.
Responding earlier to a draft of the final rule, Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said "We believe that there are significant security, safety, and liability issues that arise from the TSA’s proposed weapon carriage methodology." In a follow-up communication to Admiral James Loy, head of TSA, Woerth said that ALPA cannot endorse the procedure as written.
The requirement that pilots carry the firearm in a lock-box, rather than in a holster on their person, gives the appearance of providing protection for the firearm, but in actuality does just the opposite. Law enforcement officers routinely carry their firearms holstered on their person because that is the most secure protection against loss or theft while transporting it during travel.
In arriving at this conclusion, ALPA consulted numerous experts on the use of firearms in law enforcement. One of them, Wade Jackson, a retired FBI agent who served for nearly ten years as unit chief of the FBI’s firearms training unit in Quantico, Va., upon hearing of the TSA rule, said "The best way for a law enforcement officer to ensure the security of his/her duty weapon is to carry the weapon on their person. A recent audit of FBI lost and stolen weapons by the DOJ Office of the Inspector General - an audit which spanned nearly 30 years - did not disclose a single incident of theft when the weapon was secured in a holster, on the person, as FBI policy requires. The audit also revealed that the vast majority of the weapons were lost or stolen when they were carried in some other manner, such as in gym bags, hand bags or briefcases."
Lock-box carriage also raises numerous legal and security issues:
The TSA rule also apparently violates a specific provision in the law that created the FFDO program, requiring training "to ensure that the officer maintains exclusive control over the officer’s firearm at all times..." The TSA rule would require an FFDO pilot who is flying as a passenger (deadheading or commuting) to have the weapon stowed in the cargo hold – where it would not be under the officer’s control.
TSA has indicated that it will review the program after the initial class of 48 pilot applicants has been trained and deployed and make any necessary improvements. We are hopeful that by that point the TSA will realize that the lock-box option is seriously flawed. Failing that, because of the many concerns over this procedure, ALPA will pursue all options, up to and including legal and/or legislative action, to correct this problem.
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ALPA CONTACT: John Mazor (703) 481-4440