The Missouri 2022 legislative session is underway, and two bills have been introduced that would allow individuals with concealed carry permits to have firearms on public transit buses, vans, trains, and other spaces owned or operated by public transit providers in Missouri, including Southeast Missouri Transportation Service, Inc. (SMTS). The risk involved is unthinkable, considering an accidental discharge or even a planned event could take place in the closed environment. Further complicating the issue is the profound negative financial influence the passage of these types of bills would have on SMTS and other transit providers in the state. These realities cannot be ignored.
Allowing concealed carry permit holders to carry firearms on SMTS vehicles is in direct violation of the covenants in most of our local contracts. We would lose those contracts and the associated funding, translating into a significant loss of local dollars used to draw down much-needed federal funds. It would impede our ability to bind adequate insurance coverage at an affordable rate. Amid a critical statewide operator shortage, it would increase the difficulty of hiring and retaining qualified drivers. Plus, a wage increase would be mandated for drivers on the frontline of potential danger, as would training to ensure employees know how to respond to a wide array of potential emergency scenarios.
There is also a distinct likelihood that ridership would be reduced due to fear, and public perception of public transportation would be damaged.
SMTS is urging Missouri senators and representatives to deny these bills. It is imperative.
Denny Ward is the executive director of the Southeast Missouri Transportation Service, Inc. and a board member of the Missouri Public Transit Association