Southeast Missouri Transportation Service, Inc. (SMTS, Inc.) is in opposition to proposed legislation — like HB 52 sponsored by Rep. Adam Schnelting — allowing concealed-carry permit holders to lawfully bring firearms on public transportation. It raises serious concerns for public safety and jeopardizes the local funding SMTS, Inc. receives to match federal funding.
According to the Missouri Public Transit Association, there is no evidence that validates how allowing concealed-carry permit holders to legally bear firearms onboard transit vehicles would improve safety and security. The close-quarter transit environment is undeniably unique. The risk involved is unthinkable should even an accidental discharge take place in such a closed environment, much less a planned event. Furthermore, to date, SMTS, Inc. has never experienced a situation onboard one of our vehicles that would or could have been resolved with a firearm, and we’ve been providing this service since 1973.
If one looks beyond the safety aspect to the fiscal concern that would be derived from the passing of this bill, the impact would again be devastating to the infrastructure of public transit operations in our state. Although SMTS, Inc. receives federal funding through the formula grants made possible by the Federal Transit Administration and facilitated by MoDOT, these federal funds must be matched on the state and local level. I can tell you that 90 percent of our private contracts stipulate that weapons onboard our vehicles are strictly prohibited. Without these private contracts, we would no longer be able to meet the public need for transportation. This would be devastating, not only to the general public we serve but to the state’s economy.
Think about it: Missouri is the only state in the union that has some form of public transit service in each and every county. The availability of public transit is a key factor in decision-making by individuals and businesses looking to relocate, and the existence of this service notably enhances the viability of the communities it serves. Therefore, we urge you to please consider the unintended consequences this legislation would have on our state and our public transit systems like SMTS, Inc., and others.
This is a critical issue. We oppose it.
Denny Ward is the executive director of the Southeast Missouri Transportation Service, Inc. and a board member of the Missouri Public Transit Association.