NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Guns on Planes: A Proposal

September 28, 2001

John R. Lott Jr., an expert who has written extensively on firearms policies, is putting forth a case for increasing the number of armed people on commercial aircrafts -- the goal being to deter terrorists.

Here are some of the arguments he is advancing:

  • Research by the University of Chicago's Bill Landes reveals that between one-third and one-half of the drop in airplane hijackings in the 1970s could be attributed to the introduction of armed U.S. marshals on planes and an increased ability to catch and punish hijackers.
  • But to put just one marshal aboard every daily flight in the U.S. would require at least 35,000 officers -- far more than the 17,000 who currently work for the FBI, Secret Service and U.S. marshals combined.
  • So why not allow the 600,000 state and local law enforcement officers active in the U.S. today to bring their guns aboard planes -- which they are forbidden to do today -- as well as arming pilots?
  • Lott contends that the type of handgun ammunition in use today is designed not to penetrate the aluminum skin of a plane.

Thirty-three states now have "right-to-carry" laws and they have experienced drops in violent crimes. Deaths and injuries from multiple victim public shootings -- the type of attack most associated with terrorism -- fell by 80 percent after those states passed right-to-carry laws.

Source: John R. Lott Jr., "Only Guns Can Stop Terrorists," Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2001.

For text (WSJ subscribers)


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