Arming sailors

From a piece that I wrote for the Washington Times:

Somali pirates attacked a U.S. vessel and captured a Dutch ship on Thursday. These raids could be prevented if merchant mariners had guns and could defend their ships.

Richard Phillips, the heroic captain of the crew that fought off pirates on the Maersk Alabama a month ago, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee April 30 that armed crews "should be part of the overall debate about how to defend ourselves against criminals on the seas."

Capt. Phillips noted that protecting U.S.-flagged ships is the "responsibility of the U.S. government," but that he understands the limits of what even the U.S. Navy can do to protect all the commercial traffic spread across vast oceans. Just as police arrive on the scene after crimes on land have occurred, the Navy cannot be everywhere all the time. More than 25,000 ships travel off the Horn of Africa every year. That's a target-rich environment.

Whether it is on land or sea, gun-free zones are magnets for criminals and terrorists. . . . .

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