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House votes to allow guns in cockpit

Trial period would require 250 deputized pilots

House votes to allow guns in cockpit

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- To the delight of pilots and chagrin of the White House, the House of Representatives Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the idea of letting commercial airline pilots carry guns in the cockpit.

By a vote of 310-113, the House passed a bill allowing airline pilots to arm themselves after undergoing training. The bill had originally called for a pilot program covering 1,400 pilots over the next two years, but, when it came to the floor, House members decided to expand it to any pilot interested in carrying a gun.

"If it's good enough for 2 percent of the pilots, why not all the pilots?" said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon.

The bill also makes self-defense training mandatory for flight attendants.

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On another issue related to the September 11 attacks, President Bush's plan for a new homeland security department is making steady progress through Congress. To keep the momentum going, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other top officials are appearing Thursday before a special House committee created to refine homeland security legislation. (Full story)

Bill to arm pilots faces test in Senate

While clearing the House easily, the measure to allow guns in cockpits is expected to have more trouble getting through the Senate. The Bush administration, which earlier rejected the idea of arming pilots, also opposes the bill.

"There is no change in our position," said White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan. "The president listened to the experts, and the advice of the experts on security and transportation is that that is not the best way to go."

However, the White House would not say whether Bush would veto the bill if it gets to his desk. One senior official said it did not appear that the provision has enough support to get through the Senate.

The head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), John Magaw, also said he opposes guns in the cockpit, but says the agency is close to deciding whether to give pilots non-lethal stun guns.

Also on record with their opposition to the idea of arming pilots are Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge.

In April, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 13,000 pilots at American Airlines and the former TWA, posted a petition on its Web site calling for arming pilots with guns.

"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.

Pilots say this is particularly important since military jets may be ordered to shoot down hijacked airliners.

"Arming pilots is the last defense we have before an airliner gets shot down by an F-16 should someone get through the (cockpit) door," Rob Sproc of the Allied Pilots Association said on CNN Wednesday. "This is a program we can get on board relatively quick, with a relatively large number of pilots, to protect the vast majority of flights taking place today."

A poll shows that 78 percent of the association's members support arming pilots.

Results of a similar poll done by the Air Line Pilots Association -- which represents more than 62,000 pilots with 42 U.S. and Canadian airlines -- indicates that 73 percent of its members favor allowing pilots to carry weapons.

CNN Washington Correspondent Patty Davis contributed to this report.


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