Sources close to Senator Rand Paul’s office have provided Rare with an exclusive look at the Arming All Pilots Act of 2015, a bill expected to be introduced in the senate as early as Wednesday.
This legislation aims to fix and enhance the existing Armed Pilots Program by making it more widely available to those who seek the federal certification. Pilots will be provided with the increased flexibility they need both for the initial training and recertification processes, and will not be restricted in their ability to conceal-carry their weapons to and from flight assignments.
Senator Paul’s bill will also allow these trained Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDO) to carry on international flights to which they are assigned. Furthermore, the legislation removes onerous restrictions on the manner in which FFDOs are expected to store their weapons in the cockpit.
Since September 11th, 2001, a debate about how to best protect our nation’s commercial pilots and passengers has been ongoing. The introduction of the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) post-9/11 was supposed to alleviate these concerns. Many critics of the Armed Pilots program claimed that with the TSA in operation, this has been rendered obsolete. In fact, the Obama administration itself lobbied for the program to be slashed in half. The White House’s FY 2013 budget stated:
“The Administration proposes to reduce funding for the FFDO program (i.e., deputized, armed pilots) in 2013. As the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) focuses its aviation security activities on programs that mitigate the highest amount of risk at the lowest cost, the Budget has prioritized funding in the same manner. The voluntary FFDO program was created as a ‘last defense’ layer of security at a time when comprehensive aviation screening and other physical security measures were not fully developed or deployed on a system-wide basis. Since 2001, however, there have been a number of enhancements to aviation security. TSA now conducts 100 percent screening of all passengers and their carryon items, has overseen installation of reinforced and locking cockpit doors on aircraft that operate in U.S. airspace, and has increased passenger and flight crew awareness to address security risks.”
In the wake of recent news that TSA agents failed ninety-five-percent of undercover tests, in which restricted weapons were erroneously allowed through checkpoints, Senator Paul’s bill will certainly add fuel to the continued debate over how to defend against terror on the airlines. In fact, these political battle lines invoke the broader left-right debate about gun control: Can the government protect all citizens by banning dangerous weapons? Or is the best line of self-defense an armed citizen?