Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

June 24, 2002


IMPERIAL TRANSPORTATION BUREAUCRAT SAYS YES TO LAVISH OFFICES, NO TO ARMED PILOTS


Undersecretary John Magaw, the chief of the new Transportation Security Administration, has been very busy lately. He just spent $410,000 of your tax dollars installing lavish fixtures in his new office suite at the Transportation department headquarters. The Washington Post reports that "With its plush carpeting, mahogany stained doors, crown molding, and state-of-the-art conference room equipped with $109,000 worth of audio equipment, it has struck some visitors as Ďa little bit over the top.í" Incredibly, Magaw managed to spend about $132 per square foot on his new digs, more than the cost of new construction from scratch in the most expensive locations!

Of course this is nothing new in Washington. Self-indulgent bureaucrats routinely get away with wasteful extravagance. Itís rare, however, when they are caught red handed, and itís important to expose such behavior whenever possible. Taxpayers deserve better and should demand his resignation.

Mr. Magaw is no stranger to bureaucratic excess. He worked for Clinton and Janet Reno as director of the hated Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, the agency responsible for the Waco tragedy.

This is the same Mr. Magaw who recently announced at a Transportation committee hearing that he "would not allow" pilots to carry guns. Thatís right, he would not allow it. In other words, the undersecretary believes that he, rather than Congress, will determine federal policy regarding armed pilots. This incredibly arrogant assumption of legislative power by an unelected bureaucrat should outrage every member of Congress, and every American who cares about the separation of federal powers. Apparently Mr. Magaw cares little for a Constitution that authorizes Congress, not unelected bureaucrats, to make the laws.

His pompous display on national television angered many pilots, who recognized Magawís disdain for their abilities. The undersecretary made clear his belief that the men and women we entrust to fly our families cannot be trusted with simple firearms. His ludicrous statement- that pilots cannot fly the plane and defend the cockpit at the same time- utterly ignores the reality that pilots canít fly at all if theyíre left defenseless as terrorists overtake them! The bottom line is that guns in the cockpit might have changed the outcome of September 11th.

Weíve already seen the Transportation department, headed by anti-gun Secretary Mineta, refuse to implement the armed pilots program passed by Congress last fall. The department must be learning from the IRS, which often simply refuses to allow new deductions passed by Congress. Both agencies demonstrate the disturbing trend toward lawmaking by unaccountable administrative agencies.

Arming pilots remains the smartest and sanest approach to making the skies safer immediately. Pilots themselves overwhelmingly support having the option to carry arms in the cockpit, and we should listen to them rather than self-appointed policymakers in federal agencies. While the usual anti-gun forces predictably oppose armed pilots legislation, the supposedly gun-friendly Bush administration should not stand in the way of pilots defending themselves and their passengers. Mr. Magaw should be fired if he refuses to implement the law.

A new armed pilots bill recently passed in the Aviation subcommittee, and may see a vote later this year. While I support this bill, which essentially makes pilots federal deputies, my own legislation is more direct. My bill simply allows the airlines and pilots to decide for themselves whether to allow guns in the cockpit. This approach respects both the Second amendment and the private property rights of the airlines. While no amount of security can guarantee another terrorist wonít again board an aircraft with a weapon, Congress can make sure pilots are not left defenseless by passing a direct armed pilots bill and overseeing its immediate implementation.