Wednesday, March 18, 2009
By David A. Patten
The Obama administration is taking steps quietly to shut down the program that qualifies commercial airline pilots to carry firearms in jetliner cockpits in order to ward off another 9/11-type attack.
The administration recently diverted $2 million from a program to train and certify pilots to carry firearms safely while on duty. Instead, it is using the money to hire additional field inspectors to help discipline pilots who step out of line, according to a report in Wednesday’s Washington Times.
A Times editorial condemned the Obama administration's action, calling it “completely unnecessary harassment of the pilots.”
Since Obama took office, the approval process for certifying pilots to carry firearms has ground to a halt, the newspaper reports. Pilots are afraid to speak out about the behind-the-scenes maneuverings, for fear of retaliation, according to the newspaper. No cases have been reported in which pilots have brandished a weapon inappropriately or otherwise abused their eligibility to carry firearms.
About 12,000 pilots have been authorized to carry handguns while flying aircraft as part of the Federal Flight Deck Officers Program. Congress authorized the program in a 310-to-113 vote following the 9/11 attacks to help prevent terrorists from turning jetliners into flying bombs that could be used to attack key sites like the White House, the Pentagon, or Capitol Hill.
Paul Valone, a Second Amendment advocate who directs Grass Roots North Carolina (GRNC.org), is calling for citizens to contract their congressional representatives to protest the administration’s anti-gun priorities.
Pilots are already required to pay for their own room and board during training, and use paid leave for the time they’re off the job. Every six months, the program requires them to be requalified for firearm use.
Valone writes on Examiner.com: “While bureaucrats . . . may have attempted to hamstring the program with burdensome requirements, training instructors and the Federal Air Marshals who now oversee the program routinely thank the FFDOs for their professionalism and dedication in protecting the nation’s air commerce against terrorism.”
Valone says the Obama administration is “dismantling yet another layer of defense against terrorism and defying the will of the American people.”