NRA: CTA, Metra riders need concealed guns
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND ZACH BUCHHEIT Staff Reporters February 19, 2013 6:40PM
CTA bus stop for #11 at the Brown Line Western Ave. station Monday, December 17, 2012. I John H. White~Sun-Times
Updated: March 21, 2013 6:47AM
SPRINGFIELD — The National Rifle Association says it’s non-negotiable:
Public-transportation users should to be allowed to carry guns on buses and trains.
The question surfaced during a hearing Tuesday aimed at meeting a federal court demand to draw up legislation permitting Illinoisans to carry concealed weapons. A top NRA lobbyist said he won’t bend on allowing bus and train riders to arm themselves.
“I don’t believe people who need public transportation to get around should be prohibited from exercising their constitutional right,” said lobbyist Todd Vandermyde, who later questioned the contradiction of a motorist being allowed to carry a gun in their vehicle but not a mass transit customer.
“Just because one is one economic status, they get rights. But because someone has to avail themselves of public transportation, they don’t get the right to self-defense? They’re supposed to roam around defenseless? Help me understand how that works,” he asked the Sun-Times.
Tuesday’s four-hour hearing marked the first legislative step toward complying with a December federal appeals court ruling that tossed out Illinois’ prohibition on carrying concealed weapons. The court ordered lawmakers to draw up a law in 180 days, which translates to June 9.
One of the thorniest questions now confronting lawmakers is where gun owners ought to be allowed to carry their weapons, and transit agencies have already gone on record wanting trains and buses to be off-limits.
Last week, the leaders of the Chicago Transit Authority, Regional Transportation Authority, Metra, Pace and others wrote to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), calling the idea dangerous and warning it could lead to “catastrophic” results.
“The issue is that you’re dealing with a confined space where the public expects some safety,” Jordan Matyas, the RTA’s chief of staff, told the Sun-Times. “This is just going to lead to problems, and it will lead to what we believe is a lack of security and safety and possibly reduce ridership.”
A top Madigan aide declined to state the speaker’s position on the mass-transit issue, saying he intends to let the House Judiciary Committee “do its work” on a gun package before enunciating an opinion.
“He’s always been somebody concerned about gun safety over the years, and nothing has changed there,” Madigan spokesman Steve Brown said.
But at least one member of the House panel expressed serious reservations about permitting mass-transit users to carry guns on trains and buses or on crowded platforms.
“I have concerns anytime you have a concealed, loaded weapon with a lot of people in a confined space,” said Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago). “That applies to mass transit. It applies to street fairs. It applies to music festivals.”