NRA backs concealed guns on public transportation

February 20, 2013 2:44:13 PM PST
Guns are banned on public transportation in the Chicago area, but the National Rifle Association is backing the idea of riders carrying weapons in trains and buses.

When concealed carry comes to Illinois, the law will likely allow for guns in vehicles, but what about trains and buses?

"I don't believe people who need public transportation to get around should be prohibited from exercising their constitutional right," said the NRA's Todd Vendermyde.

The issue was raised at a House hearing in Springfield, the first legislative step following a federal appeals court ruling, tossing out the state's ban on concealed guns in public.

"It's either a right, or it's not," Vendermyde said. "It's not a right that some bureaucrat or some elected official arbitrarily gets to go eenie-meenie-miney-mo and dispense it out."

Illinois is currently the only state without concealed carry, though a handful of states do restrict guns on trains and buses.

In a letter to the General Assembly, the heads of the RTA, CTA, Metra, and other transit agencies wrote "...there's no question that a gun fired within a 45x10 foot area, like a crowded bus, would be catastrophic..."

The head of the CTA train workers union agrees.

"We get blamed for everything, even when it's not our fault," said Robert Kelly, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308. "The last thing I want to see is a train full of people carrying weapons. It's not a good idea."

Annette Nance-Holt, whose son Blair was shot and killed on a CTA bus, says concealed carry would not have saved his life.

"No, not at all. And if anybody would believe more guns would make sense, people would think it would be me. It's not the answer. It's not the solution," Nance-Holt said.

But South Side resident Otis McDonald, whose lawsuit helped strike down Chicago's gun ban, says the 2nd amendment is clear.

"If I'm going to protect myself, and I do want to protect myself, then I need to be able to do that whether I'm at home, whether I'm in the street, or whether I'm on a bus or a train," McDonald said.

The courts have given Illinois lawmakers until early June to craft legislation on concealed carry. In addition to the Springfield hearing, another public hearing is scheduled for this Friday here in Chicago.