Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Sen. Bob Onder.
A bill that would allow people to bring guns onto public transit last week became the first of about 20 gun-related proposals to receive a hearing in the current Missouri legislative session.
Possessing a gun on public transportation systems in Missouri is currently a felony. Republican Sen. Bob Onder’s bill would allow people with a concealed carry permits to bring a firearm on public transit such as buses run by the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) or the city’s streetcar system. Amtrak passenger trains would not be affected.
Transit organizations across the state have significant concern about the bill, said Kim Cella, executive director of the Missouri Public Transit Association.
The organization testified against the bill at last week 's hearing before the Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee, arguing that “the ridership experience” is a top priority.
Onder, whose district is in suburban St. Louis, told KCUR the current law prevents "the right of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves."
"Crime has been a huge problem on (the St. Louis MetroLink)," he said. "Clearly the prohibition on concealed handguns is not working."
In Kansas City, KCATA Chief of Transit Security Hugh Mills said he’s only aware of one gun-related incident in the past year — and no shots were fired.
Mills, who also testified at the hearing in Jefferson City, Missouri, told KCUR he is “100 percent a Second Amendment (supporter)” but he thinks letting people carry guns on public transit is bad public policy.
“I’m concerned with the potential of a discharge in a crowded bus where several folks could get hurt,” Mills said, noting that Missouri's permitting system requires minimal firearms instruction.
“It's frankly those who are not well-trained, not well-versed, caught up in the moment, perhaps, and decided to produce a pistol in a crowded environment that cause me concern,” he said. “Just because you have a (concealed carry permit) doesn’t mean you’re the guy to do a gunfight on a crowded bus.”
KCATA currently partners with the Kansas City Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office to provide security on buses.
Missouri hasn’t required a permit to carry a concealed weapon since the Legislature overrode a veto from Gov. Jay Nixon in 2016. The permitting system remains in place partially to allow permit holders to cross state lines with a concealed weapon.
After last week’s hearing, the next step for Onder's bill is likely a committee vote. If it passes, the bill could head to the full Senate. Similar bills have been filed in the House. Onder has proposed similar legislation in the past.
At least 19 other bills related to guns have been filed in the Missouri Legislature, although none have received a public hearing.