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Feds To Rule On Guns For Pilots

Sources tell CBS News that the Department of Transportation is expected to hand down this week a decision on whether to allow guns in the cockpits of commercial airliners. U.S. pilots have been campaigning for the measure since the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.

Pilots have argued that deadly force is a necessary last line of defense in the sky, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr. They say reinforced, locked cockpit doors aren't enough.

"Any barrier is defeatable by any individual that is highly motivated and is willing to pay the ultimate price to defeat or breach that barrier," said Capt. Stephen Luckey of the Air Line Pilots Association.

But, airlines, flight attendants, and security consultants are united in opposition, saying arming pilots is a dangerous idea.

"You're asking a pilot who is not a trained law enforcement person to act in a way that is outside his training, in a very high stress situation when they ought to be paying attention to getting their plane on the ground as quickly as possible," said aviation security consultant Peter Goelz.

Petitions from nearly 40,000 pilots asking for weapons have found no support inside the Bush administration.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge have spoken against guns in the cockpit. The president himself has signaled a tepid thumbs down in the past.

"There may be better ways to do it than that, but I'm open for any suggestion," Mr. Bush said last September.

And sources tell CBS News that John Magaw, who heads the new Transportation Security Administration, is also cool to the idea. But, Magaw, in Baltimore Tuesday to introduce the first "federalized" airport screeners, insisted officials are still weighing the gun debate.

"When the secretary has reached that conclusion, either he or I will announce it," Magaw, Under Secretary of Transportation for Security, said.

While the pilots' pleas will likely be rejected there is support for putting so-called stun guns in cockpits. United Airlines is already training its pilots with the expectation that non-lethal "tazers" will be approved.

Even after the transportation department weighs in on both guns and stun guns, the Administration may not have the last word on weapons in the cockpit.

There's a new bill in Congress that would let lawmakers make the call.

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