Dayton RTA reverses illegal ban on concealed carry

13 years after the Ohio Attorney General first declared bans on concealed carry on city busses to be illegal, the Dayton Daily News is reporting that the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority (or RTA, the city's public bussing system) has approved a change in their policies to allow concealed carry on city busses.

This author has been reporting on Dayton RTA's illegal ban on concealed carry since 2004.

That year, then-State Senator Randy Gardner inquired with the Ohio Attorney General's office on the subject of city busses, then stated as follows:

"The AG's office is under the belief that public busses are not exempted and that local ordinances can't override state law."

Despite this fact, officials at Dayton RTA continued to enforce the ban in violation of state law.

They also continued to enforce the ban even as incident after incident mounted up, exposing the fact that criminals were not at all deterred by the ban:

In 2011, the Toledo Area Regional Transportation Agency (TARTA), which had also placed 'no-guns' signs on its busses upon passage of Ohio's concealed carry law years earlier, agreed to modify TARTA's policy, and change TARTA's "passenger code of conduct" to allow lawful concealed carry on its busses.

Officials at Dayton RTA were informed over and over and over that "no-guns" signs posted on city busses are a violation of the intent of the General Assembly, and put innocent people at risk. Sadly, it took 13 years for them to do the right thing, and only after the persistent efforts of Jeffry Smith, an area gun rights advocate. 

From the article:

Under the new rules, anyone lawfully licensed to carry a concealed weapon may do so in the public areas of RTA property, such as the transit center platforms and on buses. Anyone not prohibited by law may openly carry a firearm on the transit platforms but must have a CCW permit to board the bus with the weapon.

...

Individuals will not be allowed to carry any weapons into the RTA’s building, Donaghy said, because it is considered a government building.

As of March 21, companies in Ohio are no longer allowed to ban handguns from company property, but government buildings can choose whether or not to ban weapons.

WRGT (Fox Dayton) is reporting that the policy regarding openly-carried firearms was only reluctantly changed by the board:

RTA CEO Mark Donaghy said in a statement to employees dated June 6: "on May 18 we were informed that the city of Dayton would not support/enforce our revised policies as written. While there is clearly a divergence of opinion regarding the legislative intent relative to Ohio law regarding this issue, the city law department has opined that a person lawfully licensed to carry a concealed weapon (handgun) may also Open carry said firearm on our buses. Although we feel strongly that this was not not the legislative intent, given the city's position we have opted to revise our policies to avoid placing our bus operators in a difficult situation and face a protracted legal proceeding."

While "open carry" is legal in Ohio for those who are not otherwise prohibited from being in possession of a firearm, constitutional or unlicensed open carry is not legal in a motor vehicle, as state law currently considers the firearm to be concealed by the very nature of it being inside a vehicle.

The board proposal originally sought to keep a ban on openly-carried firearms on busses in place, even for persons with concealed handgun licenses who can legally open carry in motor vehicles. An open carry event organized by Mr. Smith was helpful in changing the board's mind.

Unfortunately, WRGT (Fox Dayton) is reporting the approved policy requires bus drivers to police those who are openly carrying firearms:

Olson said operators will be the enforcers, asking to see a CCW [license] if you have a weapon before you can ride the bus.

"If people do not wish to show their permit they will not be allowed to board the bus and that's because we don't want our operators to be in a position where they have to police people," Olson said.

But by requiring bus drivers to demand that persons who are openly carrying a firearm produce a CHL, Smith points out that "policing people" is exactly what RTA is asking their drivers to do.

"Ohio law requires a person who is carrying openly or carrying concealed in a vehicle to produce [their CHL] to a police officer, not to a bus driver," Smith is quoted as saying.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and a NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

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