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A four-term Indiana lawmaker is urging his congressional colleagues and a key federal agency to lend support to provisions of an aviation security law that would allow commercial pilots to carry firearms.
Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind., in a series of letters to his contemporaries and the Federal Aviation Administration, said Section 128 of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act – signed into law by President Bush soon after the Sept. 11 attacks – “addresses flight deck security and lays down the necessary guidelines for authorizing commercial pilots to carry firearms in the cockpits of their aircraft.”
Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind.
Duffy Sabella, a Hostettler staffer, told WND his boss has been “leading the charge on this vital national security matter.”
“Most of these guidelines, such as the authorization to carry a firearm, the appropriate type of firearm and the level of training, specifically require the approval of [the] Under Secretary of Transportation for Security” John McGaw, said Hostettler in one letter.
“Airline security will be vastly improved if these indispensable provisions [Section 128] are carried out seamlessly and without delay,” he said.
Hostettler’s appeal comes as he and other lawmakers, as well as commercial pilots’ groups, press the FAA for its support of the concept in advance of the agency’s Feb. 14 deadline for accepting public comments about implementing the provisions.
Capt. Bob Lambert, a commercial pilot and a board member of the Airline Pilots’ Security Alliance, told WND support for arming pilots is building inside and outside of the industry.
“We have been working closely with the other pilot groups, such as ALPA (Airline Pilots Association), APA (American Pilots Association) and SWAPA (Southwest Pilots Association) to present a united front of all pilots,” Lambert said, noting that he and fellow board member Capt. Tracy Price have had meetings with Hostettler.
Lambert said members of his organization would be briefing White House Domestic Affairs staff on the group’s proposal – called the Federal Law Enforcement Officer-Aviation Program – tomorrow.
Under the auspices of the all-volunteer FLEO-A program, Lambert said, pilots interested in training would be subject to a “thorough background check, a board interview with an FBI or other lethal-force review panel and successful completion of a thorough and rigorous FBI or other approved training program.”
Firearms “experts” would select the appropriate weapon and ammunition to be carried by pilots, and no pilot would be paid by the government “for participation in the FLEO-A program,” he noted.
Calling pilots “some of the most disciplined and responsible professionals in the American workforce,” Hostettler said travelers “trust airline pilots with our lives every time we board a flight. …”
“Equipped with the proper training in gun safety and specialized ammunition, these ‘captains of their ship’ are most worthy of this prerogative,” Hostettler said.
Other lawmakers say they also believe the new aviation security law allows pilots to be armed and are urging the FAA to draft rules permitting it.
“We believe that armed pilots are a first line of deterrence to terrorism, because terrorists will know that armed pilots will be behind that reinforced cockpit door to defend the aircraft,” said Sen. Robert Smith, R-N.H., in a December letter to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
“We further believe that armed pilots are the last line of defense against terrorism, because when all else fails, an armed pilot will be provided with the most effective means to disable a terrorist,” Smith said. “Accordingly, we hope that you and the new undersecretary will move expeditiously to implement Section 128 [of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act].”
In a separate letter to Mineta, signed by 60 other members of the House, Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, echoed Smith’s interpretation of the law.
“We hope that you and the new undersecretary will move expeditiously to implement Section 128 [of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act] in order that these indispensable provisions [allowing pilots to carry guns] can be carried out seamlessly and without delay,” Young said.