NEW YORK—Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, Representative Carolyn McCarthy, Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter, Trenton Mayor Douglas H. Palmer, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today stood together in Penn Station to urge the House of Representatives to reject legislation that would allow Amtrak train passengers to travel with guns in checked luggage.
The Senate passed an amendment to the transportation and housing appropriations bill on Sept. 16, that would force Amtrak to install a system to screen and check firearms so passengers could legally keep weapons in their checked bags within half a year, or Amtrak will lose 1.6 billion dollars in federal funding.
Amtrak currently does not have a system for screening weapons, nor does it allow firearms to be carried or checked in.
The bill still needs to go through Congress and Mayor Bloomberg made an announcement to express his views.
“If anyone in Congress thinks the threat of terrorist attacks on trains have gone away, they are mistaken,” the mayor said.
Bloomberg said that the Amtrak security was already pretty lax, and if the new bill passes, there wouldn’t be anything keeping someone from carrying multiple assault weapons in their baggage.
“And the American people will blame the Senate if a terrorist attack does occur,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the second amendment and the right to bear arms, but everything to do with keeping passengers safe.”
Congresswoman Caroline McCarthy (D-NY) was present and expressed her concern for the bill as well. When she learned that the bill would allow guns on trains, she thought, “What else are they going to do? Why make their [police officers] jobs harder by letting guns on trains?”
She recounted that in 1993 on a train in Long Island, her husband was killed and her son injured because a gun had been brought onto the train.
“And now you’re going to make it legal to bring guns onto Amtrak?” she asked. “It’s not right and we can do a better job.”
Speaking to the notion that having guns on trains may prevent deaths and injuries if an attack occurred, because they would help the passengers defend themselves, Congresswoman McCarthy replied that having more guns on the train would only result in more, not less damage.
“We just don’t need any more guns. We don’t need any more danger,” Mayor Bloomberg said.
Jerramiah Healy, mayor of Jersey City, was present as well, and called the bill gratuitous. He said that there was no outcry from any group that said they needed firearms to better protect themselves on the railroads, and that this was only gun lobbyists wanting to get their way. He also said it would be expensive, as well as foolhardy.
Amtrak currently does not have equipment to screen for firearms, nor the money for a screening system. If Amtrak were to lose the federal funding for the railroad, however, it would be a severe burden.