Letter to Undersecretary John Magaw
May 6, 2002
John W. Magaw
Under Secretary of Transportation for Security
Transportation Security Administration
U.S. Department of Transportation
400 Seventh Street Southwest
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Undersecretary Magaw:
On behalf of the Board of Officers of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), I am writing to share our viewpoint on the issues involved in authorizing airline pilots to carry firearms aboard aircraft. At the outset, I would like to state that the IACP is firmly committed to protecting the safety and security of both passengers and aircrews, and we look forward to working closely with the Transportation Security Administration on these efforts.
At this point, the IACP membership has not yet addressed the question of whether pilots should be authorized to carry firearms aboard aircraft, and as a result, the IACP does not have a formal position on this issue. However, because of the law enforcement profession’s intimate knowledge of firearms issues and our commitment to the safe and proper use of firearms, the IACP Board of Officers believes that it is appropriate to highlight several areas of concern that the TSA should consider while making a final determination on this issue. Briefly, these issues include:
Training: An essential component of the proper use of firearms is training. Law enforcement agencies around the country require that their officers take intensive training courses on the use of firearms. These courses address not only marksmanship, but also proper behavior when armed and safe storage procedures. In addition, officers are required to undergo periodic recertification tests to ensure that have maintained the skill level necessary to safely carry and employ a firearm.
Use of Force: A central question that often confronts law enforcement officers is when is the use of firearm appropriate in the performance of their duties. The decision to use deadly force is the most serious situation that can confront a law enforcement officer. As a result, officers receive intensive training on when the use of deadly force is appropriate, what factors should be considered in making a use of force decision, and how to properly apply that force. In addition, it is also important for individuals to be aware of all applicable laws governing the use of firearms, including criminal penalties and potential civil liability
Defensive Tactics: Law enforcement officers also receive training on how to protect themselves and their weapons during a confrontation. All too often, law enforcement officers have been wounded or killed by an assailant who was able to turn the officer’s weapon against them. Defensive tactics are stressed during a law enforcement officer’s training, not only to protect their safety but also because it is vitally important to ensure that a weapon intended to protect the public does not become a instrumentality of crime and violence.
In addition to these concerns, there are several crucial technical and operational questions that should be addressed. These include a determination as to what type of weapons or ammunition, if any, can be safely used in a pressurized aircraft during flight; where a weapon should be stored during flight; and, who will have access to that weapon.
I hope that you will find this information useful as the TSA reviews the issues surrounding this critical question. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this, or other related issues, with you at any time.
If you have any questions, or if the IACP can be of further assistance, please do hesitate to contact me.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
William B. Berger