Metro Looking Into Weapons Policy, Training After Incident

Feb 23, 2017

An adjustment to Metro’s weapons policy is causing some confusion among employees. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) says it’s assigning staff members to look into the situation and see what needs to be done.

Union President Troy Miller says a recent incident involving a passenger openly carrying guns on a bus shows clarification and education are needed.

Miller says his members told him a person carried two guns onto a Metro bus during the weekend of Feb. 17-20. The bus driver notified dispatch but was told to let the person ride.

Investigation And Education

Miller, a self-professed second amendment advocate, says he’s not trying to limit anyone’s rights. He says employees simply aren’t clear about the law and Metro’s policies. The issue is especially confusing because some Metro buses are emblazoned with “no guns” stickers.

The union president brought the issue up at a SORTA board meeting this week. Board Chair Jason Dunn says staff members are looking into how the weekend incident was handled and the bus system’s policies.

“We’ve got to sit down and talk about it first, understand what is and what isn’t, what the law says and what it doesn’t say,” says Dunn. “Then how do we make sure the policies are in place to ensure that everybody plays their role to keep a safe vehicle.”

That could come down to training. “I think everybody needs an overall training period. I don’t know that it’s specific to the dispatchers or the drivers, it’s just everybody needs to understand what the law is and what it isn’t, and then how do we make sure it’s implemented and everybody is safe.”

Miller says, as far as he knows, this isn’t a major problem that drivers are experiencing on a regular basis, but rather a few isolated incidents.

The Law

Ohio is an “Open Carry” state, meaning a person doesn’t need a permit to openly carry a weapon. You do need a license to carry a concealed weapon.

However, Ohio law states that a person (other than law enforcement, etc.) may not openly carry a weapon on a motor vehicle. This is defined as a bus or vehicle carrying nine or more passengers, according to Metro’s legal counsel, Kim Schaefer.

So, in short, you can carry a concealed weapon onto a Metro bus, but you cannot openly carry one.

Editor's note: Some gun rights advocates disagree with this interpretation of the law. Also, Ohio's gun laws, as reference in the link above, changed on March 21, 2017.

Schaefer notes there are a lot of nuances to Ohio’s concealed carry law. Not the least of which is that a streetcar is not considered a motor vehicle. That means a person can openly carry a weapon on the Cincinnati Bell Connector.

Metro’s Policy

In December the SORTA board approved a modified weapons policy. The document indicates that employees are not allowed to carry – open or otherwise.

It also explains how a person is allowed to carry a weapon on buses or streetcars. However, the document could be confusing to someone who doesn’t know the exact wording of the law.

Confused? Here’s an example:

In this case, “authorized by law” would apply to someone with a CCW permit, despite that not being specifically spelled out. The information is included under the heading “Streetcars,” but the document does not specifically state that a streetcar is not considered a motor vehicle.

Should Ohio Change Its Definitions

Karl Schultz is a Miami Township trustee and Clermont County’s representative on the SORTA board. He also says he’s a member of the NRA. He thinks incidents like the one over the weekend are people who are testing the law.

“These people are pushing it just a little too far,” he says. “I think that’s what happened in this case on the bus. They were testing the system to see what people would do.”

Schultz does think the incident raises a good question about how the state defines a motor vehicle.

“Does the state need to look at this? Does the legislature need to look at this for streetcars? It’s a law for buses – on buses - but not on the streetcar,” he says. “I think they do need to look at it and that takes a representative or senator from this area to do that.”