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To state the obvious, the federal government is not infallible in its “risk-based” assessments. The air marshals program has been around for decades. Intelligence reports in the summer of 2001 warned of Al Qaeda’s interest in hijacking planes. Yet on Sept. 11, 2001, not one of the four hijacked airplanes had an air marshal on board. Trusting your life to the perfect accuracy of the federal government’s “risk-based” analysis is a good way to end up dead.

Napolitano also argued that while the FFDO program might have been legitimate in 2003, it is no longer needed because TSA screening of passengers today is so good. To say the least, the traveling public is not exactly unanimous in agreeing with Napolitano about the excellence of TSA’s current screening procedures.

Based on my own travel experiences, the large majority of TSA screeners are decent, hardworking and courteous. They are doing their best under challenging circumstances. But the fact is, when thousands of TSA employees have to perform tens of millions of screenings per year, at least a little human error is inevitable. That doesn’t mean that TSA employees are bad—just that they are as human and fallible as the rest of us.

Every week, TSA screeners find about 15-30 guns. The vast majority come from law-abiding people who simply forgot to remove a carry gun from a briefcase or purse. But some of the guns may be from people who are testing the system. How many guns are not discovered?

Notably, passengers are not the only people who can put a weapon onto an airplane. Every airport, airline and cargo employee who works in the shadow of the plane may have an opportunity.

Thus, notwithstanding the TSA’s best efforts, a box cutter was discovered on a Southwest Airlines flight at Houston’s Hobby Airport this March. A passenger noticed the box cutter in the overhead luggage compartment. It seems unlikely that the box cutter was put there for benign purposes. All of the TSA’s “risk-based” screening of passengers and employees had failed to stop whoever positioned the box cutter. While the Houston incident was noticed by the media, the quiet discovery of edged weapons in airline cabins is actually nearly a daily occurrence.

If the box cutter had not been noticed by an alert passenger, then an armed pilot would have provided an additional layer of protection against the plane being turned into a ground attack weapon.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano defended gutting the FFDO program.

Last year, a passenger attempted to breach a cockpit door. He was stopped by an FFDO, who happened to be a passenger on that same flight.

When the armed pilots program was being considered, the anti-gunners warned that a pilot’s defensive shot would open a hole in the aircraft skin, thus catastrophically depressurizing the plane and causing it to crash as all the passengers were sucked into the sky.

This did happen once, but it was in the 1964 James Bond movie Goldfinger. In real life, a bullet hole in the fuselage could not have such a dramatic effect.

Pilots have been armed since the dawn of aviation. During the 1960s, the federal government required that all pilots whose cargo included U.S. mail must carry a firearm. So about 60 percent of pilots were armed.

In 1986, a former airline flight attendant who had been fired for theft brought a gun onto a Pacific Southwest Airlines plane. At the time, airline employees were allowed to bypass magnetometer screening and the employee did so with his airline ID card, which had not been confiscated when he was fired. The man murdered the pilot and crashed the plane into the ground, killing everyone on board.

The response of the Federal Aviation Administration was to mandate that pilots go through metal detector screening at the airport. So in 1987 the number of armed pilots dropped to zero.

We know the results of that experiment: four planes turned into ground attack weapons on 9/11 and 3,000 people murdered. One of the victims was United Airlines pilot Victor Saracini, who had warned that the FAA’s disarmament of pilots would lead to repetition of murderous attacks like the one on PSA.

At a White House meeting on March 30, 2011, President Obama told Sarah and Jim Brady that the administration was working for gun control, but was currently attempting to do it “under the radar.” Federal appropriations bills are certainly “under the radar,” with all but the highest profile issues escaping the notice of almost all the media. But they don’t escape the notice of the NRA, or of the Heritage Foundation, which has done exemplary work in publicizing the administration’s quiet attempt to cripple armed pilots.

Rep. Cravaack is promoting legislation to provide full, proper funding for the FFDO of $50 million per year, to be paid for with other cuts in the TSA budget.

If someone does not trust a pilot to have a firearm even after intensive background and psychological tests and a week of special training, that person is very unlikely to trust an ordinary American to have a firearm. The irresponsible attempt to gut the Federal Flight Deck Officer program may be just a preview of what the Obama administration will attempt to do to the self-defense rights of all Americans should the administration win a second term in November and no longer have to worry about public approval for the next election.

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