Packing heat in dangerous skies

Jarrod M. Graham

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Bakersfield College political science professor Steve Holmes has no objections to airline pilots being granted the ability to defend themselves and their passengers against hijackers, but he’s uncertain about the best way to do it.

“I would have no problem with pilots having some ability to subdue passengers that want to disrupt the flight,” he said. “Whether or not a gun is the appropriate mechanism, I’m not positive.”

That is one view offered in a debate that is making the rounds through the nation’s capital.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate approved a bill sponsored by Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Bob Smith, R-N.H., that would institute a voluntary training program for airline pilots and other flight crew members in the use of firearms and self-defense techniques, according to a report. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill in July.

Holmes suggested alternatives, such as stun guns or guns that use rubber bullets, but said that in the event of a suicide mission like the Sept. 11 attacks, a weapon that uses live ammunition may be the only solution.

“In those cases where human lives might have to be sacrificed, innocent people, a gun undoubtedly might be the best answer for putting an end to that terrorist act,” he said.

Marc Mallon, a computer information systems major, said he doesn’t see a problem with arming pilots, considering many of them already have some military training.

“I think it’s a good idea … if it makes the skies safer,” he said.

Fine arts major Travis Von Schriltz disagrees.

“If they’re gonna go to that trouble, they should put (an armed) security guard on the plane,” he said.

Kristen Scales, an engineering major, isn’t opposed to the idea, but she has reservations about its effectiveness.

“Honestly, I’m not sure how much good it would do, but I guess it’s just the extra peace of mind,” she said.

Zack Dransoff, an English major, shares some of Scales’ reservations about the idea, but said since lives are in the hands of the pilots, they should be granted the power to protect them.

“I think I’d feel safest if I had the gun. I don’t know if I’d feel so much safer,” he said. “One way or another, it’s a dangerous situation to be in.”

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