The Chicago Transit Authority carries 1.6 million riders a day. The National Rifle Association says those riders should have the right to carry guns on board busses and trains under any Illinois conceal-carry law. That standoff of opinion between NRA and CTA is playing out now because the state is under federal court order to implement a workable conceal-carry law.
"We think it would be disastrous to allow passenger to carry concealed weapons on our trains and buses," said CTA President Forrest Claypool.
Claypool said Thursday that the transit agency would fight all attempts to allow gun-carrying passengers on board trains and buses, even if legislators allow drivers to have guns in their personal vehicles.
""It's either a right, or it's not...It's not a right that some bureaucrat or some elected official arbitrarily gets to go eenie-meenie-miney-mo and dispense it out," said NRA's Todd Vendermyde.
The standoff started Wednesday at a state house hearing on what kind of law the General Assembly will concoct following a federal appeals court ruling that struck down Illinois' ban on concealed guns in public-the only one in the nation.
"If you think about the crowded conditions that occur on buses and trains, especially at a rush hour, you can imagine how dangerous it would be to have a weapon bumped or discharged," Claypool said. "It is a completely different situation than someone carrying a weapon on the street."
"My concern now comes to my membership," said Robert Kelly, who represents Transit Workers Union Local 308. "They're sitting there with people allowed to have guns on trains. Are we going to be carrying them? How do we defend ourselves?"
While public transportation in Chicago sometimes resembles an ultimate fighting ring on wheels, transit authorities and Chicago police maintain violent crime is waning.
Tonight on the News at 10 p.m., the ABC 7 I-Team looks behind the press releases proclaiming transit travel safe and into the raw numbers. What do the crime stats show and where are the most dangerous spots on the CTA?