Dirty Harry flies without his gun, so far

There are nearly 1 million State and Local Law Enforcement Officers (LEO’s) in the United States, however, under federal regulations most of them are not allowed to carry firearms on board a commercial aircraft.

Federal agents are allowed to carry their firearms whether on or off-duty but your local police officer is not, unless they are on-duty and conducting an official duty such as a prisoner escort, protective duties, etc. There is also a complicated process in place for LEO’s to fly armed even with a valid, approved reason.

I’m sure the rules were developed in the interest of safety. No one wants rounds being tossed around the cabin of an aircraft by people who don’t understand the environment. However, these rules were developed prior to 9.11.01. We live in a new world today. We live with a new threat and perhaps it’s time to revisit these rules and say that the threat is worth the relatively low risk of a sworn LEO having a gun on a plane.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) has just asked the President Obama (click here for article) to allow appropriately certified federal, state and local officers to carry firearms on board commercial flights.

Already there are those opposed to this program such as the Air Transport Association and some aviation “experts,” who say that preventing bad people and bad things from getting on planes, and air marshals, are the only ways to protect airplanes. Anyone who thinks there is only one way to stop an attack on aviation is not an expert in aviation security in my opinion.

It is a layered system and oddly enough, at the end of the day, it’s been the passengers on several flights that have prevented many tragedies. It’s not hard to imagine the force multiplier that would be produced by allowing state and local LEO’s, who are properly trained and certified, to be allowed to carry their guns in-flight. What are your thoughts?

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7 Responses to Dirty Harry flies without his gun, so far

  1. I have met many law enforcement officers who have no business carrying a weapon on patrol in podunkville much less aboard an aircraft. Leave this function to the elite law enforcement entities (ie. FBI, DEA, ATF, Federal Marshals) who have acquired years of tactical training and have been through the most stringent psychological profiling. Barney Fife should not be allowed to carry a weapon on commercial flights.

    • David – I don’t think most reasonable folks would agree to handing out a gun to every cop in the land. But I do think that for those police officers who are qualified, pass the appropriate checks and undergo the training, we can force multiply the amount of armed officers we have. The small amount of air marshals and other federal agents is a fraction of what we need to adequately cover the flights.

  2. My previous reply on this subject was short on content and borderline cynical. I should have held my comment until I could formulate a more refined response.

    I’m not sure how to delineate between those who can and those who cannot. There are multiple layers of law enforcement like state troopers to state bureau of investigation agents (ie.Texas Rangers) who have most likely gone through a similar if not the same vetting process for such authority to be granted.

    When we start discussing local law enforcement personnel possessing this authority is where my apprehension begins to grow arithmetically. Police brutality occurs far to often in local law enforcement and is not isolated to any particular part of the country nor does it limit itself to experience levels. Another personality that bothers me in local law enforcement is the one, which was at the center of black Harvard professor, Henry Louis Gates Jr., arrest in Cambridge, Mass last year. The thought that these personalities could be sitting next to me with a weapon on my next flight from Denver to Maryland does not evoke security and calm. In fact the opposite is true. The only branch of local law enforcement that I would trust with this authority is SWAT.

    Perhaps the first stage should limit “applications requirements” to off duty State Bureau of Investigation agents, State Troopers and SWAT personnel. As a member of the flying public this type of an implementation would personally make me feel much safer while flying.

  3. I think it is a good idea that local law enforcement be allowed to carry on an commercial flight. But, they must have received specialized training for the aviation environment. So not all officers can do it but if they have received the rating they are allowed. It will make a big difference. Think about the local officers that receive special training and become SWAT officers. Do the same thing and make them A.S.W.A.T.(Aviation Special Weapons And Tactics). Just a idea…

  4. I think it is necessary for there to be armed personal aboard “at risk” flights. An armed officer could potentially prevent a situation like the take-overs of 9/11 or the shoe bomb guy if his weapon would have been in working order. There are alternatives to guns though, like a tazer. A non-lethal weapon that wouldn’t poke a hole in the aircraft and cause loss of pressurization. But on the other hand, any weapon like this could be used to attempt to take over the aircraft. Any person that has been approved would defiantly need to have an extensive background check, to make sure they are in no way, shape, or form associated with terrorist affiliations. The FLEOA is trying to implement a training program that would allow anyone to possess a weapon onboard a commercial flight. I am not sure if it would be limited to law enforcement. Doesn’t sound like a good idea, because that allows a greater percentage of potential threats to have access to weapons on flights.

  5. I think that local law enforcement should be allowed to carry their firearm onto a plane if they have met certain requirements and had additional training. To me, this is cost/benefit ratio because as the number of people carrying firearms on a plane increases, so does the chance of an accident occurring, such as a misfire. Even though there is an increased risk of an accident involving an armed officer, the benefit outweighs the cost because their presence may deter or even stop a terrorist attack.
    -Nicole D.

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