Amtrak, Congress in Stalemate Over Guns on Trains

(CBS/AP)
Earlier this year, Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker attached an amendment to the Senate transportation bill mandating that Amtrak allow passengers to check handguns during train travel. It passed with wide support, and 27 of the votes for the measure came from Democrats.

Now, however, that amendment could be putting the entire transportation bill in jeopardy, according to the Hill.

Here's why: Under the amendment, Amtrak must implement a policy allowing guns onboard before April or lose $1.5 billion in funding. Amtrak, which has cited safety concerns in resisting the legislation, says they will have a hard time instituting the new policy before the deadline.

And Amtrak adds that if they don't meet the deadline - and thus lose the $1.5 billion in funding - then the trains could simply stop running. As the Hill notes, Amtrak Chairman Thomas Carper warned of a "cessation of train service nationwide" if the money doesn't come through.

Amtrak allowed guns on its trains before the Sept. 11 attacks, but now only allows law enforcement officials to bring guns onboard. It says it needs time and money to implement the necessary precautions to allow members of the public to travel with guns, among them new security systems, the establishment of baggage cars separated from passengers, and the creation of secure areas to load bags.

The $68.8 billion Senate transportation bill, which also covers housing and urban development spending, is now being negotiated, and the fate of the Amtrak amendment hangs in the balance. In addition, the bill must eventually be reconciled with a House version that lacks such an amendment. (The House does have a stand-alone bill mandating that guns be allowed on trains.)

A spokesman for Wicker, who first sponsored the amendment, told the Hill that "Amtrak opposes this at their own peril."

"This is a very pro-gun Congress," he said. "It has proved that multiple times."

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