In this post fellow Chicago Boy ken expresses his dismay that the authorities are still insisting on disarming airline passengers, even though 9/11 has shown that a few armed passengers would be a force for good.
In this post newest Chicago Boy Shannon Love disagrees, saying that allowing passengers to carry any weapon at all would lead to a fatal accident.
So far as this subject is concerned, I have to agree more with Shannon’s arguement than with ken’s. But neither one earns my full support.
Before we go any further, we have to make clear that all weapons aren’t created equal. When teaching any new students I usually divide weapons into two groups: lethal and non-lethal.
What’s the difference? Basically it all comes down to effort. If it’s really easy to kill someone then we’re talking about lethal weapons. Guns and knives fall in this category.
If it takes some effort to end someone’s life then we’re talking about non-lethal weapons. This category includes batons, chemical sprays and those near-worthless electrical devices that everyone seems to think are so effective.
And spare me the old trope about how a baton to the head can kill, or that some people with fatal heart conditions have died when sprayed with mace. These definitions fit our purposes so we’re going with them, okay?
In favor of allowing weapons is the idea that the passengers, who would almost certainly outnumber any group of terrorists on the flight, could more easily and quickly dispatch the bad guys.
This is certainly true in many respects, but the reason why is that weapons increase the efficiency of the human body to do damage to someone. If the passengers enjoy this ability then the terrorists could do the same since they’d be sure to bring their own weapons aboard. While it’s possible for someone to kill another with one blow from their bare hand it’s exceedingly unlikely, and it takes an enormous amount of training and commitment to develop the skill. The chances of a small terrorist band to seriously injure or kill someone greatly increases if weapons are included in the equation, even if they’re sure to be overwhelmed by the other passengers.
This is why I think that lethal arms should never be allowed on board a commercial flight, even if the person carrying the weapon has the training and safety record to prove that they know what they’re doing.
Just in case you’re wondering, this means that I’m not in favor of allowing me to carry on a plane. If no one’s allowed then a savvy terrorist couldn’t forge my ID’s and get on board with a gun.
Non-lethal, then? Should passengers have access to their own batons and sprays?
The way things stand now, I’d have to say that I wouldn’t have a problem with it as long as they had some training in their use. But there seems to be something that we’re forgetting in this debate.
Anybody out there ever been to prison? I had to travel to the county jail several times every night while I was working for the police. (I’m sure it will be a disappointment to the people who send me hatemail that I’ve never been an inmate.) One of the things that is immediately apparent is that the guards don’t have any weapons.
This varies due to policy. Some jails and prisons allow the guards to carry chemical spray and a baton, some of them insist that there’s nothing at all in reach of the inmates. Also, all modern prisons have places isolated from the prisoners where snipers can shoot violent felons in defense of their co-workers.
But (and this is the crucial point) the guards that interact with the prisoners always have access to non-lethal weapons if they need them.
This is so the numerically inferior guards can overwhelm the disarmed but numerous prisoners. The non-lethal weapons give them a decided edge over their opponents. If the prisoners manage to subdue the guards in spite of the riot gear and the batons, it still wouldn’t gain them anything since the snipers would simply kill them from on high.
You might think that this isn’t a very good analogy, comparing prisons to a commercial passenger jet. But the security goals are exactly the same! Control the population in your charge, deny access to sensitive areas (the cockpit in the plane, the sniper’s walks in the prisons), defend and protect the innocent while quickly rendering the violent unable to continue their attack.
The main difference is that it’s reasonable to assume that the majority of the passengers on a commercial jet would have these same goals, and that they’d be motivated to vigorously resist a terrorist attack. This is markedly different from a prison, when the best you can expect is that most of the prisoners would simply avoid taking part in any riot. There’s even a direct corollary to ken’s statement that terrorists would smuggle weapons on board, since weapons are either smuggled in to prisons or made on-site by the prisoners all the time.
So non-lethal weapons in the hands of the passengers would greatly aid in reducing the threat from terrorists, and I’m in favor of allowing them on board. But I’d be in favor of keeping the present policy of no weapon, period if the stews had access to non-lethal weapons and were trained in their use.
But, no matter what, the cockpit has to be denied the terrorists. It’s like the sniper’s walks in the prisons. If the inmates could get in there and get their hands on some high-powered rifles then no one in range would be safe.
So the cockpit door should be reinforced, locked from the inside, and the flight crew should have a few lethal weapons to deny access to terrorists just in case the unthinkable happens and they gain control of the cabin. With the cockpit secure the pilot could make an emergency landing and let the local SWAT team clean house. At this point it would just be another hostage situation, and the plane couldn’t be used as a jet powered kinetic weapon.