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Arm the Bus Drivers - and the Passengers Too
by Richard Poe
Six months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government still forbids airline pilots to carry side-arms. Until now, the reason for this policy has been hard to discern.
Now Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge has broken the official silence, in a March 4 interview with USA Today. His words have stunned millions of Americans.
At the newspaper’s invitation, nearly 400 readers submitted questions to Ridge about terrorism. Several of his answers were published.
One query came from J.J. Lowers, an airline pilot from Orange County, Calif.
"Why can I not have one last chance to save my passengers and crew?" asked Lowers.
Ridge retorted, "Where do you stop?" If pilots were allowed to carry weapons, railroad engineers and bus drivers would soon be asking to do the same, Ridge argued.
Well, come to think of it, they probably would. But Ridge failed to explain why that would be bad.
The fact is, we should be arming not only the engineers and bus drivers, but the passengers as well. Guns in the hands of honest citizens are formidable deterrents against would-be hijackers.
All the fuss over airport security has distracted Americans from the fact that trains and buses are more vulnerable to terrorist attack than airliners. Worldwide, 49 percent of terrorist acts since 1920 have involved a bus or bus facility, according to House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young.
A rash of bus hijackings erupted in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.
The first occurred on Oct. 3, 2001, when Damir Igric – a 29-year-old illegal alien from Croatia – slashed the throat of a Greyhound bus driver with a box cutter, seized the wheel and ran the bus off the road near Manchester, Tenn. Igric and six other passengers were killed, 35 wounded.
Other bus hijackings – or attempted hijackings – occurred on Oct. 17 in Utah and on Nov. 26, near Phoenix, Ariz.
In each case, authorities were quick to reassure the public that these acts were committed by madmen, not by al-Qaeda terrorists. And perhaps they were right.
Nonetheless, the victims are just as dead as if bin Laden himself had lopped off their heads on live video.
Trains also present tempting targets for mass murderers.
In 1993, driven by an obsessive hatred of white people, Jamaican immigrant Colin Ferguson boarded the Long Island Railroad and began picking off commuters, one by one, with a 9-millimeter pistol. He shot 26 passengers, killing six.
It happens that my wife and I personally knew one of the victims, a woman named Amy Federici. She was shot in the head point-blank.
After the massacre, her father, Jacob Locicero, became an anti-gun activist. Many people in the New York City area began pressing for a concealed-carry law to prevent future incidents. But Locicero spoke out against it.
"It would have been worse," he said, if even one commuter on that train had been able to shoot back. Why? Because more people would have been killed, shot by mistake, or caught in the crossfire, he claimed.
Mr. Locicero’s anti-gun activism has no doubt helped him deal emotionally with his daughter’s death. But the fact is Amy might well be alive today if commuters on that train had been armed.
Witnesses say that Colin Ferguson made his way methodically down the aisle, facing each victim before he fired. Many remarked on his calm, unhurried manner.
"The gunman was pressing the trigger every half second or so," recalls William A. Warshowsky. "Going side to side shooting people. Not rapid fire, but pressing the trigger steadily – pop, pop, pop."
And what did the 80 people trapped in the car with Ferguson do? They screamed. They froze. Some stampeded for the next car, clogging the doorway with their bodies.
The one thing they could not do was shoot back. And Ferguson knew that.
I ask each reader to consider how it might have felt to cower in your seat that night, with nowhere to hide, watching Ferguson work his way toward you, calmly, deliberately and methodically.
As he approached your seat and his eyes met yours, would you really have felt safer knowing that neither you nor anyone else on that train could shoot back?
I don’t think so.
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has thrown in his lot with the Rosie O’Donnells of this world – people who preach that Americans should go meekly to the slaughter, like spring lambs, rather than risk accidental death by fighting back.
Our forefathers who built this country were made of sterner stuff.
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