WASHINGTON: Pilots unions and pro-gun associations are refusing to back down, despite the Department of Transportation's (DoT) recent decision not to allow commercial pilots to carry guns. Instead, they are vowing to take the fight to Congress, where a bill to override the DoT's decision is being considered.
"Prohibiting American airline pilots from carrying handguns in response to the militant Islamic terrorist threat is appalling, disgusting, and revolting, said John Michael Snyder, public affairs director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. His group is joined by other pro-gun lobbies, such as the NRA and the Allied Pilots Association (APA), as it politicizes the issue in hopes of swaying members of Congress.
Working in their favor is the upcoming congressional elections. Surveys show that Americans, particularly women with children, are in favor of arming pilots - a fact the proponents are making clear to members seeking reelection.
"Anyone running for office in 2002 is going to realize the political potency of this issue, said Craig Shirley, founder of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs (formerly Craig Shirley & Associates), which represents the APA and has worked with the NRA in the past. "For women, this is a security issue - a fact we've been spreading on the Hill and in the national media."
For the airlines themselves, however, the issue is less about security and more about liability. The proposed legislation - twin bills under debate concurrently in the House and Senate - would relieve the airlines of that liability, while mandating that the White House put armed pilots in cockpits within 90 days.
The Aviation and Transportation Security Act, made law last November, allowed pilots to carry guns pending DoT approval.