Those who support second amendment rights may have another reason to celebrate.
A new measure may allow passengers to check in unloaded and locked guns on their Amtrak train ride.
Though not yet passed by both houses, Senate amendment 2366 passed on Sept. 16 with a vote of 68 to 30.
The House of Representatives bill 3288 (FY 2010 Transportation–Housing and Urban Development appropriations bill) passed in July of 2009 but did not include the provision.
Further steps would be needed for the amendment to reach President Obama‘s desk, including a conference committee and a return to both houses. If Amtrak does not comply, the Senate will cut over $1.5 billion in tax payer money.
The amendment was introduced by Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
Wicker‘s Communication Director Jordan Stoick said Wicker feels the federal government provides a large subsidy for Amtrak and does not feel that law abiding gun owners should be penalized.
Others believe that there are too many negative aspects of the provision.
Amtrak does not believe it has been given enough time to change its security regulations, according to a CNN.com article.
“Unlike the airline industry, Amtrak has no system in place for a uniform system of screening for weapons,“ Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper said in the article. “The railroad has no secure loading areas, and trains make multiple stops,“ he said. “Employees also would need intensive training.“
If Amtrak were to lose federal funds, Amtrak service would cease nationwide, Carper said.
Stoick said that the bill has yet to be passed, allowing Amtrak time to prepare.
“Security is critical,“ Stoick said. “Initially there was no time allotment for adjustments, but Senator Wicker pushed the date back because he wanted to give Amtrak more time to make changes.“
Supported by the National Rifle Association, spokesperson Alexa Frittz says that before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, firearms were permitted to be checked in on Amtrak.
“This isn‘t a foreign concept,“ Frittz said. “Amtrak should be secure whether or not unloaded and locked firearms are on the train. They‘ve been aware of the bill, and they can do it.“
Others questioned the Senate‘s reason for passing this provision.
Ladd Everitt, communication director for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said that Congress is scared of a powerful lobby with a large budget, adding that the Democrats are looking to neutralize for elections.
“More Americans need to stand up for public safety by contacting Congress and not voting for politicians who don‘t support what they know is right,“ Everitt said. “It‘s regrettable that the Democratic Party doesn‘t have the guts to test the idea that NRA support is a maker or breaker in elections.“
Everitt said there needs to be leadership to oppose something that Americans don‘t want.
“The NRA has been pushing bills to expand people‘s abilities to carry firearms,“ Everitt said. “They are essentially pushing for an America where guns are allowed virtually everywhere. Without putting screening processes in place this is a dangerous combination.“
Everitt also addressed the issue of public support, citing other firearm bills that have been introduced.
The Senate already approved a bill that would allow firearms to be carried in national parks, but rejected one that would allow guns on college campuses.
“There aren‘t complaints coming from passengers on Amtrak that they need to carry on guns,“ Everitt said. “70 percent of the comments in a public forum were against people carrying concealed handguns in national parks. The same goes for a bill that would allow guns to be carried on college campuses.“
There are Amtrak locations throughout California, including Davis and Berkeley.
The original bill was introduced by Representative John Oliver on Jul. 22. Its purpose is to make appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010.
Calif. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein both voted against the amendment.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.