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Union petition backs arming commercial pilots

Union petition backs arming commercial pilots

From Patty Davis
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A leading pilots' union launched a petition drive Thursday aimed at pressuring Congress and President Bush to allow pilots to carry guns aboard commercial aircraft.

The Allied Pilots Association, which represents more than 13,000 pilots at American Airlines and the former TWA, posted the petition on its Web site. The association said the federal government is relying too heavily on airport screening, federal air marshals and stronger cockpit doors to stop terrorists -- and not heavily enough on flight crews.

"Common sense and logic dictate that the men and women we trust each day with our lives when we board an airliner can and should be trusted with firearms in order to provide the critical last line of defense," the petition said.

Petition: 'Arm our airline pilots now' 
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By early Thursday evening, the petition had more than 1,400 electronic signatures.

When it passed the Transportation Security Act last fall, Congress said pilots could carry weapons in the cockpit with the approval of the Department of Transportation and the airlines.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, along with Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, have publicly stated their opposition to allowing guns in the cockpit.

The petition is the latest move in the public relations campaign being waged by pilot groups, fearing the Bush administration will shoot down the initiative. Last week, pilot unions sent Bush a letter encouraging him to support their effort to be able to be armed aboard aircraft.

"We feel like we need to carry this through now that some of our national leadership have come out against this," said APA spokesman Sam Mayer. "We want to take this to Congress ... take it to the legislative side and force the issue in the executive branch."

A recent poll showed that 78 percent of its members support allowing pilots to carry weapons aboard aircraft, the association said.

A similar poll by the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents more than 62,000 pilots with 42 U.S. and Canadian airlines, found that 73 percent of its members favor arming pilots.


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