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Kavya Sukumar/MEDILL

“My personal opinion is that not being able to [carry] concealed weapons in public places is unconstitutional,” says Jillian Rice (on the right) as she boards the CTA Red Line with her friend Madeliene Ulrich.

Carry gun on trains? CTA commuters join the debate

by Kavya Sukumar
Feb 20, 2013


Kavya Sukumar/MEDILL

"It is even scary to think that someone next to me has a knife or something. Guns are even worse," says Adrian Espinoza, a Lake View resident.

Kavya Sukumar/MEDILL

Commuters talk about concealed-carry on CTA

More than a million commuters ride public transit in Chicago every day. If the National Rifle Association has its way, it will be legal for these riders to carry a concealed gun on the bus or train.

“Why? Why even carry a weapon. It is even scary to think that someone next to me has a knife or something. Guns are even worse,” said Adrian Espinoza, a Lake View resident.

Illinois is the only state in the country that doesn’t allow people to carry guns in public places. This was deemed unconstitutional by a federal appeals court in December. The lawmakers in the Illinois House are working on drafting new concealed-carry legislation that complies with the court ruling.

One point of contention between people for and against the law is whether concealed weapons should be allowed on mass transit. An NRA spokesman told the state legislature Tuesday that passengers should be allowed to carry guns. RTA officials have previously said they are opposed to allowing weapons on mass transit.

Jennifer Fikes rides the train daily and the idea of her co-passengers having guns on them makes her nervous. “Guns [are] out of control these days and to have them on the buses and trains, it’s very unsafe, especially when you are not a person who uses it responsibly,” Fikes said.

Minh Nguyen is disillusioned by the law enforcement authorities’ attempts to curb gun violence in the city.

The girl Nguyen took to prom was recently shot and killed by someone who bought a gun off of craigslist, Nguyen said.

“It is kind of a waste of time to have the law,” Nguyen said.

“In the long run people are going to be carrying guns, whether there is a law or not -- some people for protection and some people to hurt other people,” Nguyen said. “A law isn’t going to stop something, unless it is enforced. And lately we haven’t been enforcing it.”

“Why bother having the law when you can just go in a back alley and just buy it off someone?” Nguyen asked.

The NRA argues that people have a constitutional right to be armed. Jillian Rice agrees with that.

“I am from Minnesota. We have conceal-and-carry there and it is not an issue,” Rice said. But she is unsure about allowing guns on trains. “Train can be sketchy from time to time. It is a tough call.”

According to the Illinois State Rifle Association’s Executive Director Richard Pearson, arming citizens is the only way to keep the public safe.

“Criminals don’t care if they can carry a gun legally,” he said.

Gov. Pat Quinn said in a press conference Tuesday that he is against the idea of allowing guns on public transit in the city.

“I think it is important we have a law that complies with the court decision, which also said that we can have reasonable limitations to protect the public,” Quinn said.

Pearson said, “I don’t care what the governor thinks. He is wrong. If people were allowed to carry guns in the CTA, there will be fewer robberies. It will keep them safe.”

Nguyen appealed to the law makers, “Make laws that actually make sense.”