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the passengers on our planes should have the right to bear arms
September 22, 2001 2:10 PM   Subscribe

the passengers on our planes should have the right to bear arms Is this guy, a former pilot, suggesting that we have a constitutional right to carry weapons aboard planes so we can defend ourselves? Is an uzzi ok or a bayonet?
posted by Postroad (28 comments total)

 
This author must be a moron. The attack had nothing to do with the fact that the passengers weren't armed. It had to do with the fact that 3 of the 4 planes had no idea that the hijackers were suicidal,
posted by wsfinkel at 2:15 PM on September 22, 2001


I'm sure someone here is going to firmly support how wonderful an idea this is, so this will most likely get me flamed, but I must say that this was quite possibly the dumbest thing I've ever read. (No offense intended towards Postroad, of course)

To say something arguably more substantive, wsfinkel:

My father has an interesting idea that I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else. Do we know for certain that all of the hijackers were suicidal? My dad thinks that all you really needed was one (the pilot). The rest could have thought they were just going to Cuba or something.

It would certainly be easier to recruit hijackers, and much has been said about the terrorist organizations' stratification (which is to say that they seemed to be operating on a need-to-know basis).
posted by Sinner at 2:26 PM on September 22, 2001


Um....

From what I've heard, one gunshot from a normal weapon would blow a hole in the plane's fuselage. You need at least special ammo, and possibly a special gun if you wan't to shoot people in the air.

So yeh, this sounds like a bad Idea to me to.
posted by delmoi at 2:29 PM on September 22, 2001


The author makes a good point. If everyone on that plane was armed, no way in hell would the hijackers stand a chance in taking over the plane. They might've killed a few people, but they certainly wouldn't have taken over the plane. (even if they were armed themselves)

This argument for arming people can (and should be) extended to concel carry everywhere. It would make criminals think twice before trying to rob a crowded establihment or taking people hostage.
posted by Witold at 2:32 PM on September 22, 2001


Oh goody, now I can carry my Snake Charmer in my purse. Only in Texas.(I can say that I live in Texas.)
posted by bjgeiger at 2:35 PM on September 22, 2001


Yes but then think of how easy it would be for the terrorists to get onto the planes with guns, how much fun. This is the stupidest load of crap I have ever heard.
posted by outsider at 2:36 PM on September 22, 2001


I assume that they'd equip air crew with full-body kevlar, just in case someone gets annoyed at not receiving that upgrade to business class? Um, no thanks. There are already well-established studies to show that the particular conditions of modern air travel -- close confinement, the stress of delays, and whatnot -- are enough to make normally placid people snap. How about letting the airlines sedate their passengers instead? Something more effective than their current reliance on the large bloody mary: "a couple of Valium at the gate, and we'll wake you up in Houston." Where do I sign up for that one?
posted by holgate at 2:40 PM on September 22, 2001


My pick up- truck bumper sticker: guns don't kill people. Airplanes do.
posted by Postroad at 2:43 PM on September 22, 2001


I don't consider the author of the linked editorial a moron, but he does seem to be dismissing common sense too easily. Anyone commercial pilot will tell you this is a mixed bag. If a gun was permanently stored somewhere in the cockpit, the pilot would have to take the time to get the gun after he's been alerted to a terrorist problem on board. Usually that alert is a manner of seconds. Also the cockpit pilot seat itself is cumbersome to climb into or out of. Not a problem if you're in no hurry, but if a terrorist comes up behind you and puts a gun to your head, that really doesn't give one much of a chance to react. Also, the first thing an armed terrorist would do if he knows the pilot's armed, is to tell him to get rid of the gun.

There is already an ammendment to the constitution allowing any American citizen to be armed. However no one can agree on how to interpret it. Adding yet another ammendment to the constitution on this topic would weaken the constitution and would never resolve this issue. The solution is not to arm the pilots. The solution is to have someone else hired and sworn to protect the pilots. Sky Marshalls are the logical answer. We used to have them. They were removed from the equation due to finances some decades ago. Planes need a mobile, trained security officer. Not just for terrorism but for emergency procedures and any number of much smaller issues that may develop.

If we put sky marshalls back into the picture, these problems will resolve themselves. There should always be a sky marshall for each commercial plane. It should become a required position, just as integral a part of the crew as a pilot or stewardess or what have you. The sky marshall should be considered the equivalent of chief of security for the given flight.

Also, any time a trained law enforcement individual travels by plane (regardless of whether or not they're on duty), they should automatically be considered the equivalent of a deputized sky marshall, and should be required to report to the sky marshall prior to the flight. This shouldn't have to be more than a handshake, a smile and a brief conversation. If you're a police sargeant in Chicago, and you're going on vacation to Key West, you report to the sky marshall as you board the plane, show him your credentials, let him know whether or not you're armed, and you let him know where you're sitting in case he needs to call on you.

Sky marshalls can also be called upon any time someone on the ship gets rowdy for any reason. He'd be overall security. Not just in the case of terrorist attack. I don't see why this is so difficult. It's the most logical solution. We should have already had this in place.

For future planes, they can build the cockpit so the door to it is more secure, and on some planes now in flight they can add security features, but if a trained sky marshall is put in place on all flights, this would rectify a lot of the security problems we have on board.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:05 PM on September 22, 2001


Yup. ZachsMind wins.

I've heard stupid "right to bear arms" arguments before, but this link takes the cake.
posted by jragon at 3:31 PM on September 22, 2001


From what I've heard, one gunshot from a normal weapon would blow a hole in the plane's fuselage.

I don't believe this is true. It would depressurize the cabin, but should not cause any massive structural damage.
posted by thirteen at 3:37 PM on September 22, 2001


This goes right along the lines of "If we'd just arm all the teachers, we won't have any school massacres," without considering all the other problems you then would have.

A much better current discussion of the same problems is found at It's Not Just the Airports, It's the Airplanes.

You gotta love that guy in Texas, though (even if you think he's a moron), for admitting that he's got a screw in his head.

During the ensuing decades I would board many airliners, but I grew to loathe air travel as a passenger. It wasn't just the interminable waiting at airport gates or the notoriously bad food. It wasn't even the metal screw doctors had implanted in my skull to repair an injury that would sometimes set off those airport metal detectors.

He just forgot to mention whether or not it was loose.
posted by LeLiLo at 3:47 PM on September 22, 2001


writers of opinion pieces should have the right to use their brains.

Otherwise, what ZachsMind said. There isn't any evidence that any of those passengers would have been carrying guns anyway -- kind of a random deterrent. Using air marshalls makes far more sense, as far as terrorism goes.

Of course, the writer of this piece doesn't really care about that, he just resents the fact that the big bad airline took his magic Wand of Big Noise and Painful Death From Afar away. Boo hoo.
posted by mattpfeff at 4:05 PM on September 22, 2001


Wow, Zach, excellent post. And there is a special gun that the Israelis use that will take out people, but not the plane.
posted by tranquileye at 4:25 PM on September 22, 2001


I don't believe this is true. It would depressurize the cabin, but should not cause any massive structural damage.

It wouldn't even depressurize the cabin. The holes would be small, and the cabin leaks like a sieve already. Airliners only stay pressurized by pumping air in as fast as it leaks out.

Gunfights on airplanes are a bad idea, but that's because there's a good chance that random bystanders are going to get shot, not because of the chance of damage to the aircraft.

That said, I don't think that most of the valid concealed-carry arguments apply on an airliner. Putting armed air marshals on random flights, installing sturdier cockpit doors, giving pilots guns, and saying "regardless of what the terrorists say they are going to do, assume that they plan to use your airplane as a suicide weapon" should take care of things.
posted by jaek at 4:27 PM on September 22, 2001


Was there really a problem with airline security? Do we even need to change anything?

Wasn't the problem rather that the passengers didn't anticipate being used as suicide bombs? I mean, as soon as the passengers found that out (on the 4th plane?), they managed to overpower the hijackers and save [a landmark/thousands of lives]. And I can promise you that if the best weapon terrorists can get aboard a plane are boxcutters, they will continue to be overpowered in the future as well.
posted by dagny at 4:36 PM on September 22, 2001


This argument for arming people can (and should be) extended to concel carry everywhere. It would make criminals think twice before trying to rob a crowded establihment or taking people hostage.

Arming passengers who have attacked attendants in the past for dumb reasons--like a bad coctail or lack of pillow--only assures some drunk idiot will start shooting indiscriminately and hurt someone and potentially depressurize the cabin.

The reasonable solution is to reinstate Sky Marshalls on U.S. flights. And just look at Israel's airline, El Al. To my knowledge, no passengers are allowed to carry guns on those flights and they have an amazing record with regards to lack of hijaakings.

That sounded awkward, but basically giving the common citizen the right to bring a gun on a plane assures only another type of tragedy happening.

Was there really a problem with airline security?

Airline security guards make less than McDonald's employees. And I've NEVER gotten good service at McDonald's.
posted by RoyalJack at 5:08 PM on September 22, 2001


1. If they start allowing guns, they'd better stop serving alcoholic beverages.

2. What about a "trap door" in the area of the passenger cabin just behind the cockpit door. Either drop the hijackers into a locked area, or just let them free-fall out of the plane?
posted by jeffbarr at 5:56 PM on September 22, 2001


Hey, here's an idea. When you get on an airplane, they put a radio collar on you that has two large buttons on either side of your neck. If someone makes a hijack attempt, you sit down and press both buttons. If more than half of the passengers are pushing the buttons, anyone not seated and pressing the buttons gets a tranq in the neck.

Flawless? No. Idiotic? Yes. But better than John Q. Air Rage and Jim Q. Terrorist and their NRA buddies packin' heat.
posted by MonkeyMeat at 6:11 PM on September 22, 2001


Um....
From what I've heard, one gunshot from a normal weapon would blow a hole in the plane's fuselage. You need at least special ammo, and possibly a special gun if you wan't to shoot people in the air.
So yeh, this sounds like a bad Idea to me to.


Actually, you'd load with frangibles made to aircraft tolerance specs. No loss of aircraft integrity. No ricochet problems, either.
posted by Alwin at 7:02 PM on September 22, 2001


We should expect another hijacking like we should expect Osama Bin Laden to come riding into Washington on a rhino. They blew their wad on planes, for the reason wsfinkel stated. If there is a next time, they'll do something very different.
posted by Doug at 8:08 PM on September 22, 2001


One thing I found interesting in the article, was the author stated prior to the 70's some passengers used to carry shotguns and other weapons with them as carry on luggage. Is this true? If so were there any incidences when a passenger with a weapon, other than a terrorist, brandished their weapon?

I think armed sky marshalls to prevent future hi-jackings is overkill. With armed sky marshalls you still have the potential for a team working together to flush out the sky marshall. One member creates an incident and when the sky marshall is identified the other members of the team grabs the distracted sky marshall's weapon. A better approach would be to secure the cockpit. Entrance to the cockpit should require passing through two doors. The two doors would be electrically interlocked so only one could be opened at a time. If the first door is breached an alarm would sound and allow the pilots to alert authorities and secure the plane's navigational controls. There should also be a camera outside of the cockpit.
posted by obedo at 9:04 PM on September 22, 2001


The sky marshall should be considered the equivalent of chief of security for the given flight.

An Air Marshall is like a big sign saying 'kill me first.' If we're going to let security on the plane it should be plain clothes. Leave the Marshalls there for decoy practice and so that people can feel better and not demand all Arabs get off the plane like they did Thursday.
posted by skallas at 10:24 PM on September 22, 2001


Skallas, I was under the impressions sky marshalls were plainclothed, for that reason.
posted by Doug at 10:34 PM on September 22, 2001


Couldn't a terrorist get a job as a sky marshal? Being the only armed passenger makes it pretty easy to hijack a plane, no?
posted by David Dark at 3:26 AM on September 23, 2001



Also, any time a trained law enforcement individual travels by lane (regardless of whether or not they're on duty), they should utomatically be considered the equivalent of a deputized sky marshall, and should be required to report to the sky marshall prior to the flight.


I can agree that sky marshalls might be a good idea. Allowing any random cop to carry a gun on board a flight is a very bad idea. First, I don't trust many cops to be able to handle most non-critical situations on an airplane flight. Second, planes have been used to commit suicide before. A few years ago a commuter flight from the bay area to L.A. was hijacked by a airline employee and crashed killing everyone on board. I don't see why I should trust a random cop not to be looking for a spectacular way to commit suicide.
posted by rdr at 4:24 AM on September 23, 2001


please please please tell me this article comes from the Onion or stuff like that. this guy can't be serious
posted by matteo at 8:02 AM on September 23, 2001


Was there really a problem with airline security? Do we even need to change anything?

Yes. It's been common knowledge for years that all a scummy type has to do to gain full unquestionable access to all flights is to take a shit job doing something like sorting baggage or doing plane refueling for $6/hr. They do essentially no background check and you get an all-access pass. And local TV stations routinely do "see how bad airport security is?" pieces during sweeps months, showing not only what I just mentioned, but how easy it is to walk entire Uzis right past the equally-badly-paid-and-thus-not-giving-a-shit security people at the metal detectors. It's rather amazing that the 9.11 terrorists only brought along knives and boxcutters; trying to bring in real live guns would only have increased their risk of getting caught by about .001%.

There is nothing currently in place at all that would seriously impede anyone's ability to raise holy hell on a commercial flight if they so desired. Not even the Big Changes put in place over the last week or so. All they're going to do is annoy the 99.999% of law-abiding citizens more than ever. "Did you pack your own bag?" "Why, no, it was packed by a swarthy bearded gentleman who gave me a beautiful ticking clock to take home with me as a gift!" Please. The people that want to do stuff aren't even going to try to do it via the ways the "security" people are harassing everyone about.
posted by aaron at 12:11 PM on September 23, 2001



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