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HR 4635: Arming Pilots

Caveman

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The bill with the Defazio ammendment passed this afternoon in the house. The Defazio ammendment removed the 2% limitation imposed on the bill in committee. It also mandates that the TSA act promptly to train and approve the volunteer pilots. This is excellent news even though the bill must still make its' way through the joint house/senate committee for drafting of the final version.
 

TMMT

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AP Link: http://ap.tbo.com/ap/breaking/MGAR7YQNH3D.html

House Republicans Press for Vote on Bill Allowing Pilots to Carry Guns
By Jonathan D. Salant Associated Press Writer
Published: Jul 10, 2002




WASHINGTON (AP) - Airline pilots could carry guns in the cockpit under an anti-terror bill that Republicans began pushing through the House on Wednesday despite opposition from the White House.

Lawmakers rejected any limits on how many pilots could be armed, voting, 250-175, to strip out provisions authorizing guns for up to 1,400 pilots and limiting the program to two years.

Despite the House support, prospects in the Senate were not good for the legislation. Among those fighting it is Ernest Hollings, a South Carolina Democrat who heads the Senate Commerce Committee.

The guns-in-cockpits question is among a host of aviation security issues that arose after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In this case, House GOP leaders have been at odds with the administration, which has repeatedly argued that cockpit crews should focus on flying planes and let air marshals worry about security.

Though Republican and Democratic leaders of the House Transportation Committee agreed to arm only about 2 percent of pilots - after they undergo training and get permission to carry guns - lawmakers voted to expand the program to any pilot who volunteered.

"The base bill mandated guns," said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. "Is there a threat or not? If there is a threat, how does a minuscule number of guns help?"

The measure also would require more self-defense training for flight attendants and give the Transportation Security Administration 90 days to act on an airline's request to equip pilots and flight attendants with non-lethal weapons such as stun guns.

"Today, armed F-16s are prepared to shoot down any commercial jet that is hijacked by terrorists," said House Transportation Committee chairman Don Young, R-Alaska. "It is imperative that under these new circumstances, we must allow trained and qualified pilots to serve as the last line of defense against such a potential disaster."

Opponents of the legislation have expressed concern that an errant bullet could kill a passenger or knock out a critical electrical system.

A flight attendants union also opposed arming pilots, saying it does not protect passengers and crew members in the cabin.

"Giving guns to pilots without specific cabin defense requirements for airlines could be deadly for flight attendants and passengers," Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, said last month.

TSA head John Magaw, who announced the administration's position against guns in cockpits, has said that a pilot should give undivided attention to flying his plane, landing it as quickly as possible and conducting in-flight maneuvers to keep hijackers off balance.

He said the presence of air marshals on many flights and reinforced cockpit doors provide sufficient protection.

Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House aviation subcommittee, dismissed the administration's objections.

"Bureaucrats set the rules. We set the policy and the laws," said Mica, R-Fla.

Also backing the weapons legislation were the pilots unions, which said they needed the guns to prevent terrorists from breaking into cockpits and commandeering airplanes, as happened last September.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which favors the bill, has contributed $764,000 to federal candidates since Jan. 1, 2001. That's more in donations than was given to candidates by any individual airline, with 85 percent of the money going to Democrats, many of whom joined the majority House Republicans in supporting the legislation.

Before the vote, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, urged its members to call lawmakers and ask them to increase the number of pilots who could carry guns.

Although passage in the House had been predicted, the legislation faced difficult obstacles on the other side of the Capitol.

Senate sponsors of arming pilots said they would attempt to offer their bill as an amendment to another piece of legislation. Congressional aides have suggested that the measure may be offered an amendment to a bill providing money for the Transportation Department, because Hollings' opposition is enough under Senate rules to keep the bill from coming up for a vote.

"A freestanding bill is not the only way to pass something in the Senate," said Sen. Robert Smith, R-N.H.

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The bills are H.R. 4635 and S. 2554.

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On the Net:

House Transportation Committee: http://www.house.gov/transportation

Air Line Pilots Association: http://www.alpa.org

Allied Pilots Association: http://www.alliedpilots.org

AP-ES-07-10-02 1617EDT
 
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