(CNSNews.com) - Tens of thousands of people had signed a petition urging Congress to create a program to train and arm U.S. airline pilots before the Bush administration Tuesday announced it would continue its ban on guns in the cockpits.
The petition, circulated and delivered by the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance (APSA), was delivered to U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who chairs the House Aviation Subcommittee.
The petition drew 53,417 signatures, according to APSA's website.
APSA Chairman Capt. Tracy W. Price authored the petition.
"Airline pilots across this country are dumfounded," Price said. "Al Qaeda is surely laughing at our lack of moral certainty and strength and terrorist organizations all over the world have been sent the clear message that it is still open season on airliners and large buildings. On one hand, the administration is telling us that more attacks are imminent, but on the other hand, they refuse to allow us to defend our passengers and crew against the promised attacks."
Price said it is essential to the safety of all aboard commercial airlines that pilots be armed. "We are stunned that they are willing to compromise the safety of air travelers to further their interests in this power struggle [the airlines] have initiated with their pilots," he said.
According to the APSA petition, "Common sense and logic dictate that the men and women we trust each day with our lives when we board an airliner can and should be trusted with firearms in order to provide the critical last line of defense."
APSA is not the only pilot organization supporting the arming of pilots. The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) agrees that firearm-equipped pilots could serve as the last line of defense in a terrorist hijacking.
"The government already has told us that if terrorists take control of one of our cockpits, they will send military aircraft to shoot down the airliner and all its crew and passengers," Capt. Duane Woerth, president of ALPA, said.
"In the face of such choices, we do not understand why these same government officials refuse to give pilots a last chance to prevent such a tragedy," Woerth added.
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