Friday, May 03, 2002

Flight deck security
In the nation's attention this week is the issue of whether airline pilots should "carry". Now, the very mention of "guns" in the media draws an instinctive negative reaction, usually including the pejorative description "wild west". Clearly most reporters and editors believe there is no good reason for any private citizen to own or carry a gun. (Most reporters and editors should get out more.)

So, given their utter aversion to real firearms, United Airlines is training their pilots to use stun guns. The National Institute of Justice seems to think they would be effective. Congress is debating the issue.

Other lawmakers, however, said arming pilots would detract from their main job.
"Their primary duty is to see that the plane is flown and landed safely," said Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, Democrat of Texas.

You're telling me hijacking isn't a safety concern? Even stagecoaches had someone "riding shotgun."

To their credit, CNN has answered the question with an enlightening on-air report. (Which is to say, I can't find a link to it from their website.) They set up several rounds of tests, where volunteer "attackers" would be subjected to various kinds of stun-gun defenses. "Attackers" moved toward "victims" at a leisurely lumbering pace with arms outstretched -- apparently they think the typical attacker is the Frankenstein monster -- and "victims" fired their "non-violent" personal defense devices (which they already had in their hands, so they wouldn't have to fumble around for them).

They demonstrated, on camera, what policemen already know: Stun-guns sting like hell, but won't stop a determined attacker.

Personally, I want hijackers to wonder whether the pilot has a gun. At present, they can be fairly confident he doesn't.

(See also Susanna Cornett and Steven Den Beste.)

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