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Posted: 5/22/2002 6:07:02 AM EDT
The Wall Street Journal
May 22, 2002
Guns or F-16s


So Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta would rather let an F-16 shoot down a hijacked airplane than let pilots carry guns in the cockpit.

That's the inescapable conclusion to be drawn from the Transportation's announcement yesterday that it won't arm pilots. When Congress passed legislation last fall authorizing Transportation to give pilots guns, it probably assumed the decision would be a no-brainer. Instead, John Magaw, director of the Transportation Security Administration, says pilots don't need firearms because federal air marshals will do the job. In fact, the only way an air marshal might foil a hijacking is to be aboard a hijacked flight, an extremely unlikely occurrence since fewer than 1% of flights are protected by marshals.

Congress is already working to override Mr. Mineta's decision. A bill sponsored by Representatives John Mica (R., Florida) and Don Young (R., Alaska) would authorize a firearms program for pilots and exempt airlines from related liability. A similar bill will be introduced in the Senate next week.

Unlikely as a replay of September 11 may be, the message of Mr. Mineta's decision is clear: America still isn't serious about defending itself. If the intelligence failures that led to that tragic day are perhaps understandable, the failure to take obvious steps in its aftermath is not.
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