Opponents of the federal policy of allowing airline pilots to take guns into their cockpits already have begun having a field day with a report of an incident in late March. A gun taken into the cockpit of a US Airways plane, by the pilot, discharged accidentally on Saturday.
No one was hurt in the accident that occurred as the airliner was preparing to land in Charlotte, N.C.
Federal and airline officials already have launched an investigation of the accident. Obviously, it needs to be thorough. At first glance, it would appear that the pilot whose gun discharged should be subjected to disciplinary action.
After Sept. 11, 2001, it became federal policy to allow airline pilots to carry guns in order to defend themselves and their aircraft against terrorist hijackers.
The incident was the first in which a pilot’s gun has been discharged accidentally.
Opponents of the policy no doubt will insist that the accident is proof that pilots carrying guns are dangerous. We don’t think so.
A substantial number of pilots, no doubt on thousands of flights since 9/11, have carried firearms without incident.
Still, the accident was serious. Had the bullet pierced a critical area of the aircraft, it might have harmed passengers — or even brought the plane down.
For that reason, airline and federal officials should investigate it with the goal of determining whether changes in specific policies regarding guns and pilots are needed.
But the basic premise of the federal law — protection for pilots and passengers in the event of an incident — should remain in tact.