Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said Tuesday that he has asked his new security chief to revisit the issue of allowing guns in the cockpit _ a sign that the White House could be backtracking in its opposition to arming pilots.
Both Mineta and Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge have previously rejected the idea, choosing instead to endorse stun guns and other security measures.
But the House voted overwhelmingly earlier this month to allow more than 70,000 airline pilots to carry guns. A similar bill is gaining momentum in the Senate with the help of the National Rifle Association and pilots unions.
"Secretary Mineta has validated our position that pilots should have been armed all along," said Robert Sproc, an American Airlines pilot and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 14,300 pilots.
More senators will support the bill because of the administration's change of direction on this, he said.
But Mineta said the price tag to set up such a program _ where pilots would pass a training course and become deputized law enforcement officers _ could be too high, in the neighborhood of $860-million to set up and $250-million a year for recurrent training.