Per CNN TODAY. Guard troops had unloaded guns at airports May 26, 2002 Posted: 9:08 AM EDT (1308 GMT) PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (AP) -- National Guard troops patrolling Pennsylvania airports for more than seven months after the September 11 terrorist attacks were carrying unloaded weapons, a newspaper reported Sunday. At 16 airports across the state, the troops were banned from patrolling with loaded weapons, according to guardsmen interviewed by The Philadelphia Inquirer for Sunday editions. Instead, the guardsmen carried loaded magazines on their belts, the paper said. "I don't mind being in harm's way, but let me react," said Staff Sgt. Bill Lawrence, 39, who was stationed at Philadelphia International Airport until the guardsmen left May 10. With the seconds it would take to remove the magazine from their belt and insert it into the pistol, "we couldn't protect ourselves," Lawrence said. The Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs declined to comment on whether the state's National Guard troops carried loaded or unloaded weapons. "We are not going to confirm specific rules of engagement because our soldiers could be back in the airports," spokesman John Maietta said. But Lawrence and three other guardsmen, one of whom asked that his name not be used, talked to the paper about the airport mission. They emphasized that none of the soldiers at the Philadelphia airport ever needed to pull their weapons -- but if National Guard troops are sent to patrol airports again, they do not want the guardsmen to be in the same position. "It seemed like (National Guard officials) were betting nothing would happen," said Staff Sgt. Rich Scaricaciottoli. "But I wouldn't take that as a precedent for what's going to happen next time." When they questioned their command, the response was, "We don't want any John Waynes," the paper said. But, Lawrence said, "the people who made these decisions about rules of engagement didn't have to stand at the checkpoints." In New York, a National Guard spokesman confirmed that the M-16 rifles carried by soldiers there also had no bullets in them. "If need be, and thankfully there was no cause for this, the weapon could have been rapidly loaded," said Scott Sandman, a spokesman for the New York division of Military and Naval Affairs. Maietta and a U.S. Department of Defense spokesman emphasized that the Federal Aviation Administration, not the National Guard, was in charge of providing airport security. In addition, working alongside guardsmen in each state were professionally trained law-enforcement officers with loaded weapons, state troopers and airport police in Philadelphia and Port Authority police in New York, officials said. On September 27, President Bush asked all governors to deploy National Guard troops to airports within their states, with salaries paid by the federal government. The paper surveyed 19 states with the nation's busiest airports. Besides Pennsylvania and New York, a dozen states said their soldiers carried loaded weapons, and seven declined comment. In Georgia, National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. Jim Driscoll ridiculed the idea of his state's soldiers carrying unloaded weapons. "We're not like Barney Fife, who carries one bullet in our pocket. The gun is only effective if you can use it," he said. "It would defeat the purpose of putting them there," agreed Maj. Drew Sullings, spokesman for Maryland's National Guard. "What if something happened and they needed to defend people, to defend themselves?" Phil Anderson, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the use of unloaded guns raises the question of whether the National Guard is the appropriate military force to be deployed at airports. But Lawrence Korb of the Council on Foreign Relations said the National Guard had achieved its mission by "calming people down and giving them the assurance that we were doing something." Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.