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Govt. Rules Out Guns in Cockpits

He said, “Pilots need to concentrate on flying the plane.”

“Specially trained air marshals should be the only armed officers on board. These marshals are trained not only in the use of weapons but all the things that build up to that.”

Since the September 11 hijackings, the government has struggled over how best to protect pilots, flight crews and passengers onboard commercial airplanes.

The Airline Pilots Association has pressured Congress for the right to carry guns onboard, saying it would allow pilots to confront a hijacker who breaks into the cockpit.

Advocates for flight attendants have lobbied for the right to carry non-lethal weapons, such as stun guns, that they could use in emergencies.

Opponents of arming pilots have said reinforced cockpit doors, now required on all planes, allay the guns issue. Moreover, they contend that an errant shot might hit a passenger or damage a key electrical system on the plane.

President Bush, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge have voiced their opposition to arming pilots as well.

Sen. Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), Commerce Committee chair, echoed Magaw saying guns are not needed as long as pilots keep cockpit doors locked while in flight.

However, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), a co-sponsor of legislation to arm pilots, countered the government’s position.

“Those who want to be armed will put themselves through the same training the air marshals go through,” said Burns.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the Commerce Committee, recently suggested that pilots use in-flight maneuvers to keep the hijackers off guard and that installing cameras in the cabin could allow pilots to see the results of any actions they take.

Magaw said a formal announcement of the decision will be made later in the week.

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