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Opinion: The reasons are many – no weapons should be allowed on transit

Bills introduced in the Missouri House and Senate would allow individuals with concealed carry permits to carry firearms on public transit buses, vans, trains, and other spaces owned or operated by a public transit provider. Citizens for Modern Transit (CMT) and the Missouri Public Transit Association (MPTA) understand the reasoning behind these bills is to improve safety on transit; however, allowing firearms on public transit has not been proven to enhance the safety and security of any system and may instead serve as a detriment to ridership. There is an unacceptable risk on transit vehicles that someone could be harmed if a gun is fired or discharged accidentally. CMT and the MPTA both oppose any legislation which would allow carrying concealed weapons on transit.

Kimberly Cella

The largest Missouri transit providers deliver tens of millions of rides each year and have publicly expressed opposition to conceal and carry on transit too. The proposed bills are especially problematic in areas like St. Louis where the system spans both Missouri and Illinois and is governed by a Federal Compact, which prohibits the employees and contractors of Bi-State Development, which operates Metro Transit, from carrying weapons that can cause bodily harm. Crimes on the St. Louis transit system are down according to the three police units responsible for patrolling the MetroLink alignment. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has a partnership with its local police force to patrol its system. These partnerships with law enforcement are allowing local control to determine the best actions for the respective systems.

These bills could also jeopardize the funding of our rural providers like OATS Transit and Southeast Missouri Transportation Service (SMTS) which have private contracts to operate service in Missouri. Passage of a concealed carry weapon bill on transit would have a significant fiscal impact on the state. Because most Missouri rural transit providers receive federal funding through MoDOT for general public service, they would have to adhere to concealed carry permits on transit if such a bill were to pass. Yet, a majority of the users are individuals who ride under funding grants that expressly prohibit firearms on buses. These riders include senior citizens and those with physical, intellectual, and developmental disabilities. The various Missouri state departments’ have their own regulations for transportation service for these individuals that would conflict with any concealed carry weapon bill passed. OATS Transit, SMTS, and others use many of these private contracts to match federal funds. If legislation passes and it is required to allow firearms on these vehicles, this would jeopardize not only the public contracts but the federal funding. Loss of those contracts used as local matches for federal funds would impact the amount of federal funding that could be drawn down for operating expenses for Missouri transit providers.

Allowing passengers to carry firearms on transit is not the answer to enhancing the safety and security of these systems. The reasons are many — no weapons should be allowed on transit.