Rand Paul: Arm '100 Percent' of Pilots to Stop Terrorism

Friday, 11 Apr 2014 09:34 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Arming American pilots is the most cost-effective way to prevent 9/11-style terrorist attacks, says Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul, but President Obama has "zeroed this out of his budget."

"I'm concerned about what is the most cost-effective way of preventing another 9/11," Paul told Fox News' Sean Hannity on his show "Hannity." "I want all pilots to be armed."

The Transportation Security Agency, in a followup to the 9/11 attacks, developed the Federal Flight Deck Officer program (FFDO). Developed on the order of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the program allows commercial airline pilots to carry firearms. The following year, President George W. Bush expanded the program to include pilots flying cargo planes.

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But Obama has "advocated for getting rid of the program," Paul told Hannity on Wednesday. "And when I talk to pilots, I'm at airports all the time, pilots come up to me all the time and say it's too hard to get a permit and to keep up the permit."

In April 2013, Paul confronted then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about the program's funding issues, complaining that the government's "lack of commitment to the idea of self-defense" sends a "huge signal to terrorists around the world if we're not going to arm our pilots."

Napolitano said during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last year that the funding was changed because the FFDO program is not "risk-based."

"It's just happenstance, where you happen to have a pilot on board that went through the training or not," she told Paul. "We're offering the training to air carriers if they want their pilots covered. But we would rather stick with the Federal Air Marshal Service, who are portion-based on risk."

There are also safety concerns about arming pilots, reports The Huffington Post, noting that in 2008, a U.S. Airways pilot's weapon discharged during a flight from Denver to Charlotte as he was stowing the weapon, leaving a hole in the cockpit wall and an exit hole in the plane's exterior below the cockpit window.

Nobody was harmed, but air safety experts said that if the gun had gone off at a higher altitude, the hole could have caused the plane to depressurize rapidly.

Paul said he is planning a bill with a goal "to have 100 percent of American pilots armed because it's the most cost-effective way of deterring another attack on our planes."

He also told Hannity, in response to the Fort Hood shooting, that he advocates soldiers being allowed to carry weapons on military bases.


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