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Bush supports gun rights -- except for pilots. (Insider Report).

The aviation security bill passed by Congress in November of last year authorized Undersecretary of Transportation for Security John Magaw to decide if commercial aircraft should carry guns to help thwart terrorist hijackings. On May 21st, Magaw revealed during a Senate Commerce Committee hearing that he opposes an armed-pilot policy. Instead, he contended, the task of thwarting hijackers should be left to federal air marshals. "The use of firearms aboard a U.S. aircraft," he claimed, "must be limited to those thoroughly trained members of law enforcement."

Three days later, USA Today reported that "the government has cut training for federal air marshal applicants and put new hires on flights without requiring the advanced marksmanship skills the program used to demand." But in any event, as airline Captain Steve Luckey (chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association International Security Committee) has noted, about half of all airline pilots are ex-military, many have law enforcement experience, and still others are skilled recreational shooters. Indeed, many are also reserve military pilots who might someday be ordered to shoot down a hijacked airliner because none of the flight deck crew of the civilian plane are armed.

Representative John Mica (R-Fla.) is among those finding it "unacceptable that our last line of defense today is an F-16 shooting down a hijacked passenger aircraft." Mica, who chairs the House Aviation Subcommittee, and Representative Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, have introduced legislation (H.R. 4635) that would overrule the administration and authorize pilots who volunteer and undergo training to carry guns. Congressman Young contends that "nothing else can provide the deterrence or effectiveness of a gun wielded by a highly trained individual."

On May 23rd, Senator Bob Smith (R-N.H.) introduced a companion measure in the Senate (5. 2554). In addition to allowing pilots to carry guns, it would authorize the training of flight attendants in the use of non-lethal force. Senator Zell Miller (DGa.), a co-sponsor of the bill, asserts: "We trust the pilots with our lives. It's time to trust them with firearms."

Undersecretary Magaw's irrational decision hardly came as a surprise. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge had previously indicated their opposition to arming pilots. The Bush administration's stance on the issue may appear, at first glance, to conflict with its position that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. However, the administration contends (in the words of Solicitor General Theodore Olson) that the right is subject to "reasonable restrictions designed to prevent possession by unfit persons or to restrict the possession of types of firearms that are particularly suited to criminal use." Such vague categorization could cover all guns, depending on how such terms as "unfit" and "criminal" are defined.

Simply put, the administration's position supporting an individual's right to keep and bear arms is conditional, subject to whatever "restrictions" the government may establish. The administration's defense of the Second Amendment is akin to defending the right to life of the unborn child -- except in cases of rape, incest, deformity of the child, threat to the mother's physical or mental health, etc.
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Title Annotation:avoiding terrorism
Publication:The New American
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 17, 2002
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