Amid the welter of warnings — they’ll soon have nukes, suicide martyrs are a-comin’, apartment dwellers have most to fear, there’s no doubt they’ll try again — warnings that put everybody including Grandma under suspicion, we now have this: airline pilots are not to be trusted with pistols!
John Magaw, undersecretary for transportation security, made the announcement at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing. “Pilots need to concentrate on flying the plane,” declared Magaw, ignoring entirely the events in the skies of September 11, when terrorists with box cutters commandeered four commercial airplanes by first quelling the helpless flight attendants and then making their way into the cockpits where the pilots were sitting ducks.
Pilots have requested that they be allowed to arm themselves, observing that a large percentage of their number are militarily trained and would expect to undergo more training if allowed to be armed. Flight attendants have asked that they be equipped with stun guns or some similar nonlethal weapons. From Magaw’s announcement, they too will be told to stick to the plastic serving ware. Under Magaw-Mineta, only federal sky marshals, their number unknown, will be legally armed. Magaw, who served six years as head of ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, during Waco, Ruby Ridge, and the Oklahoma City bombing, and who headed the Secret Service before that, may have acquired a natural antipathy for armed civilians.
Magaw was speaking for Transportation Secretary Mineta and thus for President Bush when he said, “The cockpit in the aircraft is for the pilots to maintain positive control of that aircraft.” Positive control means, to Magaw, “to get it on the ground as quickly as you can regardless of what’s happening back there (in the passenger cabin).”
What happened back there was what made the September 11 plan so terrifyingly successful. Men with box cutters were herding the passengers and flight attendants around, preparatory for the final bloody assault on the cockpit and the ultimate takeover of the aircraft.
Committee Chairman Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), has his own non-solution for the order of events. As long as pilots keep the cockpit doors locked while in flight, he triumphed, all will be well. “You can put the rule in right now and cut out all the argument about pistols and stun guns,” declared the Palmetto State solon.
Even Magaw saw the flaw: what are the pilots to do if they know the crew behind them, and some passengers as well, are having their throats cut, when the demand comes to open that door? Magaw’s solution: pilots could use in-flight maneuvers to keep the hijackers off guard (and presumably off balance), and he even suggested installing cameras back in the passenger cabin so the pilots could see the results of these unspecified inflight maneuvers! Ever try an Immelman in a 767, John?
There is no question that armed pilots could have staved off most if not all of the carnage of September 11. As posited in an earlier TAP article, “What Would Have Worked,” there is no question a legally armed citizenry could have done the same. But to deprive the captain of the ship, responsible for the lives and safety of the hundreds in those seats behind him, of the Second Amendment means of saving the ship, is a decision that must and will be appealed.
As for the President, for whom these cabinet members work, it is no longer a question of what did he know? It is now a question of when will he learn?