If passed by the commission, only those who have permits to carry concealed weapons can carry guns while riding buses. Riders and a Sparks gun shop owner agree the move is the right thing to do.
Sitting next to another passenger with a gun on his or her hip is not what rider Moniz Morelo, 35, feels comfortable doing.
“With alcohol available 24 hours a day here, it makes me very nervous,” Morelo said. “Who’s to say that person wouldn’t get the gun taken away by someone else?”
In its 35 years of existence, the agency always has had some kind of policy regarding weapons.
Prior to 1982, no weapons of any kind were allowed. Since 2005, the RTC has allowed riders to carry concealed weapons as long as they have a permit.
The topic was brought to the RTC’s attention when resident John Blain, speaking under public comment in September, expressed his opinion that the RTC Passenger Behavior Policy preventing passengers from bringing firearms, other than those legally allowed by concealed weapons permits, violated state law. He requested the RTC revise its policy to permit firearms on buses carried in plain view.
Instead, the RTC board directed legal staff to review its policy in light of changes to the Nevada Revised Statues.
Legal counsel’s opinion is that the RTC can prevent passengers from bringing firearms onto the bus system and the policy is legal under current Nevada statutes and state and federal constitutions, according to the RTC report issued for today’s meeting.
Rider Swayne Spivey, 21, rides the bus to school often and said if he saw someone step into the bus with a gun on his or her hip, he would likely get right off.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable,” Spivey said. “It’s public transportation. It’s kind of scary and weird. What if it’s the wrong kind of person getting out of control and then (you’re) stuck on the bus?”
RTC Public Transit Director David Jickling agreed, saying RTC staff is recommending that the board continue prohibiting firearms carried openly on board buses.
“We believe that (within) the confines of a bus, it is not a very big space,“ Jickling said. “Seeing a firearm on somebody would be disconcerting and frightening to our passengers and that is why we should not allow them on our buses. To see someone with a firearm on the bus would be frightening to our passengers.”
Jickling said some riders would feel less safe if they saw an alteration on a bus and someone involved had a gun.
“It’s certainly more perception than anything else. It might discourage passengers,” he said. “Clearly what we’re trying to do is encourage people to ride the bus.”
John Clement, manager of Bizarre Guns in Sparks, said he is in favor of RTC’s attempt to curb the practice of people carrying firearms openly on crowded buses in Sparks and Reno. As a former law enforcement officer, Clement is in favor of open carry initiatives, but he can understand the problems with frightening passengers unnecessarily and favors concealed weapons permitting in this case.
“In a way, I can’t blame (the RTC),” Clement said. “Kids get upset. I can support that. I’ve seen residents and moms walking into places when their child gets upset (when they see a gun). I tend to support it, not because it is a bad thing, but because other people can see it.”
Open carry is legal, he said, but in densely populated areas it is “silly” to open carry. “There are places where it’s not appropriate. If you feel you need to carry, get the lessons. I’m a supporter of concealed weapons. I always say, if you see me, I’m packing.”
Current RTC policy defines a weapon as any dangerous or deadly weapon that includes any firearm, knife, nightstick or other clubs, metal knuckles, or any other instrument used in a threatening or intimidating manner.
Other issues to be discussed today during RTC’s meeting are the authorization of an agreement with the California Association for Coordinated Transportation to buy 15 replacement vans and an option for 30 additional vans; acknowledge receipt of the 2035 Regional Transportation Plan status update and provide direction; and acknowledge receipt of the fiscal year 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the RTC.