Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - The Libertarian Party says President George W. Bush, not the anti-gun liberals in his administration, is directly responsible for why America's commercial airline pilots remain defenseless against terrorists.
"The president puts whoever he wants in cabinet agencies and they answer to him," said Libertarian Party spokesman George Getz.
"So if the president wants pilots not to carry guns, it doesn't matter if he's got [Transportation Secretary] Norman Mineta or [National Rifle Association Executive Vice President] Wayne LaPierre or [Gun Owners of America Executive Director] Larry Pratt in that job, the guns are going to get banned," he continued.
Second Amendment rights supporters and pilots groups have criticized Mineta for his public opposition to arming commercial airline pilots.
"I don't feel that we should have lethal weapons in the cockpit," Mineta said at a March 4 press conference with Undersecretary for Transportation Security John Magaw, the former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms.
While Libertarians acknowledge Mineta's anti-gun history in Congress, they say the transportation secretary cannot be solely faulted for the administration's inaction.
"It's telling only half the story to blame this on the cabinet secretary," Getz contended. "This is President Bush's opinion. If he doesn't like what Mineta is doing, he can fire him."
Libertarians say the fact that Mineta was not fired, or any kind of correction issued regarding the statement, proves that Bush supports it.
"He's chosen gun control over terrorist control," Getz added.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge and Federal Aviation Administrator Jane Garvey have also publicly stated their disapproval of arming pilots.
A comment Wednesday by White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe supports the Libertarians' contention that Bush opposes the move, as well.
"We don't need to have a potential for handguns getting loose on airplanes," he said, claiming arming pilots "could create more danger than it eliminates."
Bush Being Doubly Hypocritical
Getz believes Bush, who signed the legislation allowing thousands of law-abiding Texans to carry a concealed handgun for self-defense, is being doubly hypocritical.
"He's cruising around on Air Force One. He's surrounded by armed Secret Service agents," he argued. "But he tells everyone else they shouldn't have the same right to fly in safety."
The decision over whether airlines may allow their pilots to be armed could be taken out of the hands of everyone in the administration except President Bush, if some congressmen have their way.
CNSNews.com reported Wednesday that Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and John Mica (R-Fla.) have introduced legislation to force the creation of a voluntary armed pilots program.
The bill would require the Transportation Security Administration to establish a program to deputize qualified, volunteer pilots as "Federal Flight Deck Officers" within 90 days after its enactment. Within 120 days of enactment, 500 such pilots must be deputized under the act, and all volunteer pilots who meet the requirements must be deputized within two years.
The proposal would also provide training and background checks for the pilots similar to those undergone by Federal Air Marshals.
'Too Much Of A Government Program'
That bill has the support of the major airline pilots' unions, but not of the first member of Congress to suggest arming pilots after the September 11th attacks.
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) says Congress simply needs to acknowledge the constitutional right of airlines to allow their pilots to carry firearms on the airlines' private property, nothing more.
"Just like any other industry that has [armed] guards and security all the time, I don't think the airlines should be any different. The Young-Mica bill," he says, "is too much of a government program."
None of the major airlines has come out in support of any "armed pilots" proposal, but industry insiders say the Young-Mica legislation is more palatable to the airlines because it shifts the liability for mistakes from them to the federal government.
But Paul sees that as another of the problems with the Young-Mica bill.
"I wanted [liability] to fall on the business that has a responsibility to protect its property. I wanted to just legalize their right to do so," he explained.
The airlines, Paul says, should have the same liability that any other business would have if an armed employee of the business improperly used his or her weapon.
"Hopefully we live in a civilized society that, if we're being attacked by terrorists and we shoot them, that we would have enough sense not to put the people doing the shooting in jail," he added.
On September 17, 2001 the Texas conservative introduced H.R. 2896, "to provide for the safety of United States aviation and the suppression of terrorism." The proposal has the distinction of being one of the shortest bills ever introduced.
After four sentences of "findings" about the terrorist attacks, it states: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, 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."
The bill has 19 co-sponsors and was immediately referred to the House Subcommittee on Aviation, which Mica chairs. No further action has been taken since.
'A Lot Of Responsibility To Go Around'
Paul acknowledges that Bush, himself, has not come out against arming pilots, but says the evidence is obvious.
"You have to infer from the neglect and lack of enthusiasm," the congressman observed, "that he is not on our side on this issue."
Libertarians are less forgiving, placing responsibility squarely on Bush, and issuing a warning.
"If another hijacking occurs, we're going to lay this at George W. Bush's feet," Getz concluded. "He has to accept responsibility for what he has done."
But Paul says pilots are only still flying unarmed because of a cultural and educational failure.
"We've been badgered and brainwashed by our schools and our media to be opposed to gun ownership. So it's Congress, it's the regulators, it's our presidents, it's our society and our lack of respect for the Second Amendment and the Constitution as a whole," Paul concluded. "There's a lot of responsibility to go around."
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