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US Bans Cockpit Guns; Pilots Still Want Right to be Armed - 2002-05-21

The U.S. government has decided not to allow pilots to carry guns on commercial airliners. Tuesday's announcement is a blow to airline pilots, who had asked to be armed following the September 11 hijacking attacks on New York and Washington.

The decision was announced by Transportation Undersecretary John Magaw at a Senate commerce committee hearing on aviation security. "I will not authorize firearms in the cockpit," Mr. Magaw said.

Mr. Magaw said pilots should concentrate on flying the plane. Senator Fritz Hollings, a Democrat from South Carolina, agreed, saying "they are there to fly and not to fight."

Mr. Magaw said only trained air marshals should be allowed to carry weapons on planes. But Republican Senator Conrad Burns of Montana urged Mr. Magaw to reconsider his opposition to arming pilots.

"The majority of them that want to be armed will submit themselves to that training," Senator Burns said.

Senator Burns is co-sponsoring legislation authorizing pilots to carry guns in the cockpit. Similar legislation is pending in the House of Representatives.

The Airline Pilots Association is pressing Congress to pass the measure. In addition, lawmakers are considering legislation that would allow flight attendants to use non-lethal weapons - including stun guns - on flights.