(Editor’s note: You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)
Before Sept. 11, 2001, airplane hijackings were almost common. Since then, major airline hijackings have been basically nonexistent.
And the reason they’re nonexistent could become the driving motivation to stopping mass shootings in the future.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, between 1968 and 2000 there was an average of nearly 30 hijackings a year. In 2020 there wasn’t a single one.
ABC news reported the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) fails to catch weapons during screenings about 80% of the time. So, I’m guessing the theatrical performances TSA puts on for our entertainment isn’t the reason for the extinction of hijackings.
The reason is customer mindset. Flyers won’t allow another hijacking. Period.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 21 years since four airliners were hijacked and turned into human-guided cruise missiles on 9/11. Every passenger, every crew member on those four planes were doomed the moment the doors closed; they just didn’t know it.
Once the terrorists took control of the planes, the passengers likely thought they could still survive the ordeal. And why wouldn’t they?
Before then there was no reason to believe a commandeered plane wasn’t a survivable event. Usually, the captors wanted something in exchange for the hostages, like political prisoners or fellow terrorists being released and being flown to a safe country.
Three of the four planes turned into weapons on 9/11 hit targets, killing almost 3,000 people. The passengers of those three planes didn’t fight back. And why would they? Given the history of nearing 1,000 previous hijackings before, the best chance to stay alive was to comply with the terrorists.
But everything changed on that fourth plane, United Flight 93, and changed forever. Passengers and crew learned from phone calls what happened with the other three planes. They learned their plane wasn’t hijacked. They learned they were in fact on a flying bomb, and they too were certain to die if they didn’t act.
Passengers wisely and bravely attacked their captors. The plane crashed in an empty field. While they sadly died, their heroism saved potentially thousands.
From that day on no passenger, no crew member, no one will be compliant to a hijacker. Every laptop computer will become a projectile to fight a hijacker. Every coffeepot a cudgel. Every pen a stiletto. Call it the “Flight 93 Default of Action Mindset.”
During the Columbine High School shooting law enforcement had the old hijacker mindset, reacting as if were a hostage situation, camping out outside, ready to negotiate rather than immediately engaging the killers.
This mindset can almost be forgiven at Columbine in 1999. It cannot be forgiven in Uvalde, Texas in 2022.
While law enforcement might fail with the Uvalde Mindset, many of the brave victims instantly activate their Flight 93 Mindset.
That heroic “Default of Action” was on stage May 7, 2019, at STEM School Highlands Ranch where two students went on a shooting rampage. Three other “Flight 93” students, Kendrick Castillo, Joshua Jones and Brendan Bialy, jumped from their desks and threw one gunman against the wall, saving innumerable lives. In doing so 18-year-old Kendrick gave his own life. (It has been the greatest of honors to learn so much about this young hero from his inspirational parents, who I now consider friends.)
The horrific recent shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs was ended by the same Flight 93 Default of Action Mindset of 45-year-old Richard Fierro who rushed the shooter and beat him with his own gun to end the carnage.
And these are the brave who fought back unarmed; many more armed citizens did what Uvalde cops wouldn’t — engage the shooter with their own firearm. Think of those of action who stopped a mass shooter by shooting back.
Hero Johnny Hurley shot and killed a mass killer in Old Towne Arvada and paid for it with his life. Hero Jeanne Assam shot a mass killer at the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, to name just two.
All these valiant people had the Flight 93 Mindset.
What if every potential shooter knew, as every potential hijacker knows, he will be either shot or swarmed and beaten to submission by more than he can kill?
We all already have the Flight 93 Mindset every time we walk onto a plane. How do we get it every time we walk into a store, club or church?
Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tnak in Denver.
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