June 13th, 2010

GAO Ruling Affirms Amtrak Must Allow Guns as Checked Baggage

Amtrak gun transportIn December 2009, President Obama signed a transportation funding bill that included a provision allowing Amtrak passengers to bring firearms aboard trains — provided the arms are stowed in locked, checked baggage.

Amtrak’s gun ban was instituted after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attack. The 2009 legislation will restore rail riders’ rights that existed prior to “9/11″. Amtrak has until December to put the new law into effect, and Amtrak is obliged to deliver an implementation plan to Congress next week.

Amtrak officials have resisted the new policy on gun transport from the beginning, pointing to a shortage of funding. However, just last week, on 6/10/2010, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) removed any “wiggle room” for Amtrak. The GAO held that the legislation obligating Amtrak to carry firearms was “permanent law”, erasing doubts that Amtrak would have to comply. The amendment (to the 2009 funding bill) which obliges Amtrak to resume firearms carriage was authored by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS). Senator Wicker explained the purpose of his amendment: “Sportsmen who would like to use an Amtrak train for hunting trips cannot do so because they are not allowed to bring a firearm in checked luggage, something that is done every day at airports across our country.”

How does all this shake-out for shooters traveling by rail? Amtrak’s current policy still prohibits carriage of firearms on trains, and that won’t change until December, 2010. Below is the language of Amtrak’s stated rules regarding transport of firearms:

AMTRAK Baggage Policy — Firearms in Checked Baggage
Amtrak’s current policy prohibits all firearms, ammunition and other weapons aboard its trains. This includes any being carried on the person, in carry-on baggage, or in checked baggage. Please be advised that this policy remains in effect until Amtrak begins firearm carriage service by December 2010.

The Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2010, enacted into law on December 16, 2009, requires Amtrak to implement the procedures necessary to provide storage and carriage of firearms in checked baggage cars and at Amtrak stations that accept checked baggage, within one year of the bill’s enactment. This requirement applies solely to checked baggage, not carry-on baggage.

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