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USE COPS TO SUPPLEMENT AIR MARSHAL UNIT

The airlines should use the trained professionals we already have. I am a police officer with extensive training in the safe handling and effective use of firearms. Who would object if I was allowed to carry a personal firearm under my jacket while traveling by air on vacation or official business?

We have more than 500,000 police officers in the United States who could voluntarily supplement any air marshal force that the Federal Aviation Administration is now planning, to protect selected domestic and international flights. These volunteers could be prescreened and approved by the FAA, and issued secure identification cards when accepted into the program. Psychological testing and additional training could be provided, and these air officers could be issued specialized ammunition. Volunteers would not consume alcohol on board and would remain anonymous except to the flight crews.

It's also time to allow qualified police officers, whom we trust to protect and defend our lives, to carry their concealed firearms across state lines. This will take an act of Congress (and has been proposed). In the interim, at least allow FAA security to keep the volunteers' firearm at the destination airport until the return flight.

The air marshal program is expensive and will be hard-pressed to cover many domestic flights along with its international responsibilities. The tedium of the air marshal's job may result in less vigilance while in the air day in and day out than would occur with a nonfrequent-flyer volunteer cop.

A volunteer force of qualified, trained police officers would have likely prevented the tragic results of Sept. 11. It would have taken just one cop and one gun.

ROBERT BROCKLEHURST

North Tonawanda

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