(Editor's note: Adds quotations from pilots)
(CNSNews.com) - A new Federal Aviation Regulation would take away the right of pilots, co-pilots, and navigators to carry firearms and other weapons for self-defense.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Paul Takemoto acknowledged Thursday that flight crews have been authorized to carry firearms for the past 20 years.
"That will change on November 14," he said. "The new rule will not include authorization (to carry firearms) and crew members will no longer be allowed to carry arms."
Federal Aviation Regulation 108.11 currently allows armed individuals on aircraft, "if the person having the weapon is authorized to have the weapon by the (airline) and the Administrator (of the FAA) and has successfully completed a course of training in the use of firearms acceptable to the Administrator."
That federal aviation regulation also establishes the conditions under which law enforcement officers and other government officials may be armed on board aircraft. Takemoto indicated ther would be no changes to those regulations.
Takemoto was not aware of whether or not the FAA had ever approved a firearms training course for flight crews, or whether such a request had ever been made. He indicated that the agency was too busy to research the issue in light of the on-going investigation into the hijacking of four passenger jets by terrorists armed with plastic knives and box cutters on September 11.
In response to those attacks, the Front Sight Firearms Training Institute in Las Vegas, Nevada, offered weapons training specifically designed for cockpit crews free to any pilot, co-pilot, or navigator, if their employer requests the training. Dr. Ignatius Piazza, founder of Front Sight, was outraged by the FAA's decision.
"The FAA, in changing the regulation, and preventing the airlines from arming and training their pilots effectively places the blood on their hands for every (future) terrorist act involving the take-over of a cockpit of an airplane," he said.
Larry Pratt, executive director of Gun Owners of America, agreed.
"This is simply going to insure, and reassure the terrorists, that they will be the only ones armed. They will break the law, because they're criminals, and they'll be able to repeat exactly what was done," Pratt said.
"These people haven't learned a thing," he continued, "and they need to be fired, because anybody who thinks self defense is a bad idea doesn't belong in public service."
The FAA's new regulation is also directly at odds with legislation introduced by Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) last Friday.
House Resolution (HR) 2896 would provide that, "no department or agency of the Federal Government shall prohibit any pilot, copilot, or navigator of an aircraft, or any law enforcement personnel specifically detailed for the protection of that aircraft, from carrying a firearm."
Takemoto said the FAA does not comment on pending legislation.
Paul believes pilots should be able to defend themselves and their passengers.
"My approach to this is to allow an airline to take care of their property just like we allow our chemical plants and our refineries to protect their property," he said.
Paul compared the fences and armed guards around such plants to airliners with fortified cockpit doors and an armed crew flight crew
Paul expressed astonishment that the terrorists were able to commandeer four airliners without firearms.
"They did all that without a gun," he said. "If the pilots had had guns, they could have prevented this."
In a letter to the editor of the Wall Street Journal (Friday, Sept. 21), an American Airlines captain agreed that "hardened cockpit doors and armed pilots could have prevented all four of those hijackings."
Captain Brad Rohdenburg suggested making some of the pilots sky marshals. "How much more cost-effective could a security program be?" he asked.
"At the very least, let us carry pocket knives again. As Benjamin Franklin said, 'If you make yourselves sheep, the wolves will eat you.'"