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Debate about Arming Pilots in the Cockpit

written by: Jason C. Chavis•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/28/2010

Above the skies of the United States and throughout the world, the basic dialogue has opened about an important debate: arming pilots in the cockpit. Proponents and opponents of the measure address many concerns about the concept.

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    Benefits of Arming Pilots

    Delta pilots 

    Within the debate: arming pilots in the cockpit, there are a number of benefits pointed to by proponents of the concept. Training for pilots is a relatively easy task. Since most pilots are heavily trained, and many have military backgrounds, it would mean that responsible usage of the firearms is possible. Supporters of this concept address the fact that guns are the most effective weapon against an individual situation, especially when lives are at risk.

    The majority of parameters used in the arming of pilots in the cockpit focus on safety as well as security. For example, the weapons used by these pilots are placed with lock boxes that can only be accessed in the event of an emergency. This prevents the possible abuse by the pilots themselves.

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    Disadvantages of Guns on Airplanes

    Jehrico 941 F 

    Others point to the fact that beginning to arm air crews creates a dangerous condition and potentially hazardous precedent. If a pilot mistakenly discharges a weapon, it could kill innocent passengers or compromise the overall safety of the vehicle. In addition, as in the words of former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, “I don't think we want to equip our pilots with firearms. Where would it end?"

    Opponents question whether after arming an airline pilot, other members of the crew may request or even be deemed ready to carry weapons. With more guns onboard the aircraft, brandished by others, there is always the possibility of poor judgment and accidents. Highly-trained police officers are found responsible for accidental shootings each year on our city streets. This could become more dangerous with high concentrations of passengers.

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    Air Marshals

    Another major consideration those taking up the debate point to is the fact that air marshals are used on the majority of flights across the US and Canada. These individuals are generally armed and keep an eye on the passengers with the goal of preventing problems before they escalate. With these sky marshals operating in the skies, there is little chance for terrorists or hijackers to overtake an airplane. This means that arming the pilots in the cockpit may be redundant.

    However, the fact that air marshals themselves could be killed or captured means that potential threatening individuals may gain access to weaponry that could be used to take the cockpit. Due to this fact, an armed passenger may be an additional threat to the pilot and the crew.

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    The Ongoing Controversy

    Both the proponents and opponents of the debate about arming pilots in the cockpit point to the need for increased security on airplanes. The events of 9/11 showed that a concerted defense against hijackers is necessary both before and during flights. However, the main point of contention relies on what these parameters should be. Despite the fact that arming pilots may offer additional safety features to airline flights, there is always the possibility of creating new problems with more guns onboard.

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    References

    "Should Pilots be Armed?" Debatepedia: http://debatepedia.idebate.org/en/index.php/Debate:_Armed_pilots_in_airplanes

    "The Case for Arming Pilots" Safer Skies: http://www.secure-skies.org/Arming_Pilots.php

    "Arming Airline Pilots" Newsmax: http://archive.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2005/5/11/171108.shtml

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    Image Sources

    Delta Pilots. (Supplied by Twinjalanugraha at Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5b/Delta_pilots.jpg)

    Handgun. (Supplied by Jpogi at Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c9/Jehrico_941_F.jpg)