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'Recipe For Disaster': St. Louis Officials React To Bill Allowing Guns On Public Transit

Along with new security strategies, many MetroLink and MetroBus vehicles have a new color scheme.
Christopher Ryan
Metro Transit
Along with new security strategies, many MetroLink and MetroBus vehicles have a new color scheme.

A measure that would allow people to carry concealed weapons on public transportation in Missouri is making its way through the legislature.

During debate its sponsor, Rep. Adam Schnelting, R-St. Charles, said Missourians have a right to defend themselves on public transportation, because “violence does not discriminate.” Schnelting did not respond to St. Louis Public Radio’s requests for an interview.

“I believe that this legislation will discourage criminal activity on our public transportation systems, but more importantly, I believe it is necessary that we provide our citizens, our taxpayers, the ability for self-defense,” Schnelting said.

The measure passed in the House last month and is currently making its way through the Senate, despite opposition from public transit officials from around the state, including in St. Louis.

Bi-State Development, which operates Metro light rail, buses and shuttles in the St. Louis region, does not allow weapons, even for its own security guards. The debate over arming its guards was raised again after a MetroLink security guard was killed earlier this year.

Bi-State President and CEO Taulby Roach said that he’s not opposed to improving safety, but that allowing citizens to carry guns is not the solution.

“Transit is not a good environment for concealed carry of weapons,” Roach said. “And this idea is shared with many of our partners, including many of our senatorial partners who I’ve talked to about this.”

Sen. Brian Williams, D-University City, is actively opposed to the proposal, which moved out of the Senate’s General Laws panel last week. He said his constituents are tired of violence and don’t want more guns.

“This is a recipe for disaster,” Williams said. “In fact, we’ve already witnessed too many lives lost due to gun violence. But we continue to make it easier for guns to get into the wrong hands. The communities that I represent have suffered for far too long to stand by and continue to watch our friends, our neighbors and especially the children die as a result of lack of action.”

Roach said there are circumstances in which “ultimate deadly force” is needed even on public transit. He said there’s been work to get more police officers, who are allowed to carry weapons, on Metro through partners in St. Louis County, the city and St. Clair County.

“We need that deadly force that comes with the training of a full badge, of a full professional police department,” Roach said.

Still, Metro Transit presents a unique situation as its light rail and buses also provide service in Illinois, which does not allow concealed weapons on public transit. Bi-State Development is governed by a federal compact between Missouri and Illinois. That’s why Roach said even if Missouri's bill is signed into law, a similar bill also would have to be passed in the Illinois legislature, and another in Congress, which would then have to be signed into law by the president.

“We see it as one of those normal iterative legislative processes, where there will be debate,” Roach said. “And we’re going to come to that debate and try to be as factual as possible.”

Follow Marissanne on Twitter: @Marissanne2011

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Marissanne Lewis-Thompson joined the KRCU team in November 2015 as a feature reporter. She was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri where she grew up watching a lot documentaries on PBS, which inspired her to tell stories. In May 2015, she graduated from the University of Missouri with a Bachelor of Journalism degree in Convergence Journalism. Marissanne comes to KRCU from KBIA, where she worked as a reporter, producer and supervising editor while covering stories on arts and culture, education and diversity.