If you believe Air Marshals are a good idea, then you should believe that armed citizens on airplanes are a better idea. For one thing, as cnn.com reveals, the U.S. Air Marshal system is in shambles. The headline pretty much says it all: Sleep-deprived, medicated, suicidal and armed: Federal air marshals in disarray. The exposé is based on information provided by the newly formed Air Marshal Association, so it’s skewed towards the negative. Nevertheless, it’s a frightening portrait of an anti-terrorist defense force that’s highly compromised . . .
In fact, the government has evidence that armed air marshals are so dangerously sleep-deprived that it could affect their ability to thwart a terrorist attack.
In 2012, the TSA was given results of a commissioned sleep study on air marshals. The results of the study — now classified as sensitive security information — were disturbing.
Seventy-five percent of air marshals flying domestic missions were sleep-deficient.
On international runs, the figure rose to more than 84%.
In a job where it is critical to be alert and accurate at a moment’s notice, the study finds “the acute and chronic lack of sleep substantially degrades a Federal Air Marshal’s ability to react and think quickly.”
The study, conducted by the Division of Sleep Medicine of Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, found half of federal air marshals take some medication or supplement to get to sleep. Others commented they turn to alcohol.
Sleeping pills, alcohol (in flight), a grueling schedule (without regular hours), professional paranoia, constant interaction with strangers (who can’t know your real identity), airline food, boredom, a small chance of career advancement and little to no job satisfaction (do Air Marshals deter terrorists?). Sounds like something the human rights folks should look into.
The answer is not better working conditions for the same work; although, yes, of course. The answer to deterring or stopping in-flight terrorism: armed [non-law enforcement] Americans on board.
Before you point out the danger of negligent discharges, the possibility of enabling armed terrorists and the prospect of deadly “shoot-outs” between bad guys and untrained yahoos, consider the simple fact that not even Uncle Sam (i.e., our Chinese bankers) can afford to put a U.S. Air Marshall on a significant portion of U.S.-originated airline flights.
According to this year’s Department of Transportation stats, some 674 million passengers boarded some 8.5m flights inside the United States. While the number of U.S. Air Marshals is classified (and deleted from Hillary Clinton’s server), CNN pegged it at around 3500 – and falling. Even if all the Marshals were flying all the time – which they aren’t – the odds that any one plane will have an Air Marshal on board are one in 2,428.
If we allow Americans to exercise their natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms on airplanes, the chances of having an armed defender on board any particular flight would increase exponentially. I’m not sure of the deterrent effect – we’re talking about terrorists – but I bet at least one of the 9/11 attacks would have been countered if flyers’ gun rights hadn’t been abridged. [Note: the U.S. Air Marshals program was in place before that crime against humanity.]
As for the downsides listed above – which I would dismiss as unlikely and the price of freedom – the federal government could create a special license for concealed carry on airplanes. Although the requirement would reduce the number of armed passengers (which kind of misses the whole point of the exercise), the license could mandate screening, training and regular certification. I reckon the program would at least triple the number of armed passengers.
I don’t approve of ANY licensing requirements for any right, but there you go. If implemented, this…what…Civilian Air Defense Corps? would free the U.S. Air Marshal Service to deploy [sober, well-rested] agents to flights with a greater-than-average risk of terrorist attack. And increase the chances of a successful airborne defense against a terrorist attack inside a U.S. airliner. What’s not to like?