Young, Republicans seek to arm pilots, put officers at airport screeners

Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska Rep. Don Young and fellow Republicans have introduced an aviation security bill that would allow pilots who are properly trained to carry guns.

The bill, introduced Wednesday, also would put government officers at each airport screening point.

The bill has competition on Capitol Hill, however.

The Senate unanimously passed its own security bill last week that includes a provision to arm pilots.

Young, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, introduced legislation that says the government ''shall not'' stop airline pilots from carrying guns if they meet certain training standards and the airlines agree to allow such weapons.

In contrast, the Senate version, introduced by Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, states that ''the (Federal Aviation Administration) is authorized to permit'' pilots to carry firearms.

The difference between the two bills seems subtle, but a House committee attorney said it could influence how fast the rules go into effect.

Chief counsel Elizabeth Megginson said the FAA doesn't have to engage in a ''rule-making process'' to implement the House version, but the Senate language could require such a process, she said.

Young said the bill would give pilots and airlines an option.

Capt. Phillip Beall, of the Allied Pilots Association, said pilots, many of whom were in the military, should have the opportunity to defend the cockpit.

''If the pilot is killed, the flight attendants and all the passengers are dead, too,'' he said.

But Young's bill won't help put guns in the cockpit, he said, because it says the airlines have to agree, and airlines are the main obstacle.

The Senate bill, like Young's, also would take airport security out of the hands of the airlines. But the Senate version would federalize 28,000 screeners and other security workers at the 142 largest airports, including Anchorage's international airport. Smaller airports could use state or local police officers.

House conservatives, who have endorsed billions in new spending since last month's attacks, oppose creating so many new government positions. Their bill does not require that all airport screeners be federal employees.

Young called the Senate bill ''ridiculous.''

House Democrats, meanwhile, claimed conservative Republicans were preventing a necessary overhaul of airport security.

They introduced a rival bill Tuesday that is similar to the Senate measure.

Young's bill leaves many decisions to a new transportation security undersecretary. If this appointee deemed it appropriate, he or she could require stronger cockpit doors, restrict the opening of the door during flight, and install video cameras in passenger cabins, the bill says.

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