Editorial: Guns don’t equal airline security

Wednesday, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed a bill that would allow pilots on commercial airline flights to be armed. While airplane security and pilot safety have become highly scrutinized since Sept. 11, guns in the cockpit will not fix the problem.

Pilots are responsible for many things, not only the safety of the passengers and the plane, but also the flight of the aircraft. While many airlines take great pride in planning flights and accounting for variables, such as weather, anything can happen once the plane leaves the ground. The last thing a pilot should be worrying about is whether he or she will have to pull a gun on a deranged passenger.

In light of the Southwest Airlines scandal a few weeks ago, in which two pilots actually flew a plane under the influence of alcohol, the idea of guns in the cockpit seems even more dangerous. As reported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 1997 there were 32,436 firearm deaths in the United States; who knows how much the influence of alcohol played into these, but the effects of alcohol on judgment have been studied. It is widely acknowledged that people who are inebriated should not drive a car, fly a plane or wield a gun.

Also, the diligence of airline passengers has increased since Sept. 11. Many passengers on flights that have experienced unusual behavior have helped flight attendants subdue suspicious passengers and brought the potentially dangerous situations under control. In many instances since Sept. 11, violent or dangerous passengers have not gotten anywhere near the cockpit, which again would reinforce the idea that pilots do not need to be armed.

Each frequent flier wants to be assured a safe flight when he or she steps onto a plane. This is why there are security checkpoints, constant identification checks and random bag searches. In the same vein, pilots should be able to concentrate fully on their job of flying the plane and delivering the passengers to their destination. While there can never be any absolutes, throwing a gun into the mix guarantees to cloud the friendly skies.