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Stun Guns on Planes

Now that the Department of Homeland Security has given approval for Korean Air Lines to use stun guns to thwart terrorists on its airplanes, US and international carriers should follow suit. Otherwise, the effectiveness of the decision will be limited.

But few other international carriers have expressed an interest in having their flight crews carry the guns. Nor have domestic airlines such as American, Southwest, and Delta.

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Last week, Korean Air Lines was authorized to allow selected personnel to carry the guns on planes that fly within US airspace. The airline has had the weapons on non-US flights for several years.

The stun gun itself shoots out a thin wire, delivering a quick 50,000 volt electric shock that incapacitates the victim without endangering life or the aircraft.

It's too bad such a good idea took so long. Police in the US and around the world use stun guns routinely (perhaps too routinely, considering two recent cases involving children in Florida). But they fell out of the little favor they had when the airline industry convinced Congress to authorize pilots to carry real guns.

Now that pilots are armed, and cockpit doors are reinforced and locked, a stun gun used by a trained flight attendant makes sense because it could thwart trouble in the cabin.

One challenge will be to keep stun guns from those who would do harm. But adding this nonlethal security layer should help make flying safer.