Since commercial aircraft played such a significant role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the safety of airline pilots, crew members and passengers has been a topic of paramount importance.
Last week, the Bush administration decided not to arm pilots with firearms, saying newly required security doors were a better safeguard. In addition, armed marshals are being hired for some flights, but it is unlikely there will ever be enough of these professionals to cover every plane in the sky.
Pilots and flight attendants both say they would like to be armed to deal with dangerous passengers. Passengers -- their numbers are down drastically out of safety concerns -- also have some expectation that steps will be taken to ensure their protection while on board.
There has to be some middle ground. Stun guns have been suggested as an alternative to firearms. And flight crews can be trained to deal with would-be hijackers.
The message to the public needs to be one of preparation and strength, not limits that keep airline employees from having everything they need to protect themselves and their passengers.