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  • Hi Jack!

    Posted by Shannon Love on September 14th, 2004 (All posts by )

    In a previous post ken argues that it is counterproductive to disarm passengers since weapons will help them resist a hijacking better. I’m a big fan of personal weapons but in this case I respectfully disagree.

    One problem is that since hijackings are extremely rare events letting passengers carry serious weapons like tasers, pepper spray, knives or even guns will be statistically more likely to cause a fatal accident than to be used to resist a hijacking. Also, since any terrorists are likely to be seriously outnumbered by the passengers and crew, depriving everyone of weapons would throw the advantage to the passengers and crew. They can just overwhelm the terrorist with numbers.

    And, we can be very, very sure that the passengers will fight.

    Prior to 9/11 the assumption of the flight crew, passengers and authorities on the ground was that terrorists sought to control the plane in order to pull off an extended media stunt. Going along with the terrorists offered the best chance for everyone to survive because time worked against the terrorists’ control of the airplane.

    The ruthless brutality of the 9/11 attacks changed that calculus forever. Everyone will now operate on the assumption that the terrorists intend to kill everybody on the plane and as many people on the ground as possible. Not even the threat of a bomb will deter resistance. Passengers will know that even if they cooperate with the terrorists there is the high likelihood that authorities on the ground will have the plane shot down if it approaches an urban area and is not firmly under the control of the flight crew.

    9/11 made every aircraft “desperate ground.” Every passenger knows that the only way to survive will be to fight to the death no matter how poor the odds. Even the Nazis knew that they could not herd their victims into the deaths camps unless they created the illusion that the camps were survivable. The 9/11 terrorists destroyed that illusion for airline hijackings.

    I predict that aircraft will be destroyed by bombs, thimblefuls of nerve gas or from bloody fights for control but we will never again see one sitting on a tarmac surrounded by soldiers.

    (Cross posted at Shannon Love’s Blog)

     

    4 Responses to “Hi Jack!”

    1. incognito Says:

      Interestingly enough, I don’t think there has been one successful hijacking since 9/11.

    2. Lee Says:

      “Every passenger knows that the only way to survive will be to fight to the death no matter how poor the odds.” Gee, thanks. Aren’t you the one who wants to make the odds poor?

    3. Ken Says:

      “One problem is that since hijackings are extremely rare events letting passengers carry serious weapons like tasers, pepper spray, knives or even guns will be statistically more likely to cause a fatal accident than to be used to resist a hijacking. Also, since any terrorist are likely to be seriously outnumbered by the passengers and crew depriving everyone of weapons would throw the advantage to the passengers and crew. They can just overwhelm the terrorist with numbers. ”

      With the numbers on the side of the passengers, the passengers already have the advantage whether everyone is armed or everyone is disarmed. The only case where the hijackers can get the advantage is if they are better armed than any of the passengers. Given a prohibition on carrying weapons, the hijackers will have a high incentive to smuggle weapons on board, while the passengers usually have very little incentive to do so (unless hijackings are common); therefore, the only possible change in the odds is against the passengers, since the hijackers are far more likely to board the plane with weapons than the passengers.

      I’ll agree that this method of attack isn’t too promising, and is therefore less likely to be attempted. I’d expect something more along the lines of a bomb being smuggled aboard, or a rogue pilot like the one that deliberately ditched in the ocean a few years back. But a full ban on everything that could possibly be used as a weapon changes the odds, however slightly, in favor of the hijackers, and there isn’t that much opportunity for fatal accidents while everyone’s sitting down and waiting for the flight to be over; fatal accidents could be used, with just as much justification, to outlaw arming oneself anywhere. So, at best, it’s a huge waste of resources, and at worst it’s making life more dangerous.

    4. chris Says:

      the other thing is that if you allow the passengers to have weapons on board, that would include the hijackers who would no longer have to smuggle weapons on board…they would simply need to get a good sized group of people on board then “get the drop” so to speak on the other passengers….heh….