Just this week, Amtrak announced that for the first time in about ten years, unloaded firearms will be permitted to be carried as checked baggage on most of their routes. Predictably, a number of people interviewed by various news sources wailed, gnashed their teeth, wrung their hands, and proclaimed the rails would be awash with blood with shootings both enroute and at stations. Some bemoaned that the perceived increased danger to themselves and their fellow passengers would prevent them from using Amtrak and force them to use alternate means of transportation. Many advocating taking pen to paper to write Amtrak to voice their objections and their fears. But just how dangerous are the new rules and can Amtrak or the hand-wringers do anything about it?
Amtrak has no choice. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (Public Law 111-117) was signed into law on December 16, 2009 by President Obama. Section 159 and directed Amtrak to develop and implement guidance and procedures to carry out the duties and responsibilities of firearm storage and carriage in checked baggage cars and at Amtrak stations that accept checked baggage. The deadline for implementation was set for December 15, 2010. That time has arrived and Amtrak must comply.
Here is the Amtrak firearms policy: http://www.amtrak.com/servlet/ContentServer?c=Page&pagename=am%2FLayout&…
Okay, let’s examine the reality of the change. Daniel Vice of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence stated that the rule change enables terrorists with ill-intent to bring weapons on trains. How so? The policy affects only weapons that are checked and secured in locked containers, in secured cages, in a locked baggage car. The firearms would be inaccessible during the trip and, like checked baggage on an airline, would be surrendered prior to boarding the train and picked up at the completion of the journey. Additionally, any firearms in checked baggage must be declared to Amtrak 24 hours prior to departure.
But, let’s assume for a moment that there is a group of terrorists intent on harming Amtrak passengers during a trip. There are no metal detectors, no searches, no screening of passengers, or anything else to prevent a terrorist, or anyone else for that matter, from bringing a loaded firearm onto a train as it is. So where is the “increased” danger to which Mr. Vice refers? The discerning reader, or anyone with half a brain, will recognize Mr. Vice’s comment for what it is, that being a scare tactic intended to evoke an emotional response.
You see, the Amtrak policy change does not affect passenger safety in the least. Presumably, the service will be used by law-abiding citizens wishing to transport their firearms in a secure, lawful manner. Terrorists, gang-bangers, and ne’er-do-wells need only purchase a ticket and keep their unlawfully carried firearms concealed, just as it has always been. Have a nice trip! Tickets, please.