The VPC is in strong
opposition to guns of any kind in the cockpits of our nation's passenger
planes. Introducing guns to the close quarters of an airliner may be
even more hazardous than putting guns in classrooms, as some urged following
the 1999 Columbine massacre.
The first and foremost
consideration should be the fact that the weapon, by definition, would
potentially be available to every passenger. That includes passengers
with a case of air rage or those suffering from suicidal tendencies,
as well as terrorists.
contemplating terrorism will know that a gun is available and will act
accordingly� and the terrorists will usually have the element of surprise
on their side.
Giving the task
of defending the airliner to an already engaged pilot is a scenario
rife with potentially disastrous consequences. In fact, highly trained
police officers, whose only job is law enforcement, all too often have
their service weapons turned against them by suspects:
- One study found
that 21 percent of officers killed with a handgun were shot with their
own service weapon.
- Trained law enforcement
officials have only a 18 to 22 percent hit ratio in armed confrontations.
quarters of a cockpit do not lend themselves to success.
teaches that when police fire their weapons, they sometimes make grave
mistakes in deciding when deadly force is justified. It is naive to
believe that pilots will perform any better, especially when they will
have the additional responsibility of flying the plane while fending
off an attack.
simple danger of loaded handguns at 30,000 feet, another serious threat
is unintentional discharge. Many handguns, including popular models
used by police departments, can fire when dropped or bumped.
One brand of handgun
carried by police departments nationwide is prone to fire with very
light pressure on the trigger. The dangers of "drop fires," or guns
with hair triggers going off unintentionally in an airplane cabin's
close quarters are crystal clear. One errant bullet could damage key
flight controls, kill or injure a fellow pilot or other flight crew
member, or potentially pierce the hull of the jetliner.
There are many necessary
and constructive steps that can be taken to protect pilots and passengers
short of arming pilots. If firearms are absolutely necessary, they should
be carried by trained air marshals whose only responsibility is protecting
the safety of crew members and passengers.
Whether it occurs
in a classroom or a cockpit, pinning our hopes on the outcome of a shoot-out
is risky at best. Measures aimed at preventing attacks must be the focus
lest we risk replicating in the air the gun violence America already
experiences on the ground.