Six years' hard work: Lawful concealed carry on TARTA buses is finally recognized

Immediately after passage of Ohio's concealed carry law in 2004, the Toledo Area Regional Transportation Agency (TARTA) banned concealed handgun license-holders (CHLs) from their stations and buses, despite Section 9 of the legislation which became Ohio's concealed carry law (House Bill 12) having clearly prohibited such action.

Pro-gun activists, including those represented by this political action committee, immediately began working to reverse the illegal policies. When pointing out the plain wording of Section 9 didn't work, then-Sen. Randy Gardner asked for an opinion from the Attorney General's office, which took a quick and firm position when it came to TARTA and other Section 9 violators.

In an email response to long-time pro-gun activist Bruce Beatty in April 2004, Sen. Gardner's office said the following:

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

But even after the AG opinion, TARTA and other public entities refused to remove their illegal bans, even when they were faced with the fact that criminals were still bringing weapons on TARTA buses despite the ban.

It was this kind of blatant violation of the law that led to Buckeye Firearms Association's push to pass legislation that would enforce a statewide preemption against local gun control measures (House Bill 347), which eventually became law when the legislature overrode a veto by then-Gov. Bob Taft (R) in 2006.

But even the passage of the preemption law, and after court challenges which eventually resulted in the law being upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2010, TARTA still continued to blatantly violate the law.

Thankfully, in 2011, Beatty is still on the case. Following is a letter to Buckeye Firearms Association from Beatty, describing the progress that has been finally made on this issue:


I am pleased to inform you and your members that as of 3/8/2011, the Director of the Toledo Area Regional Transportation Agency (TARTA), Mr. James Gee, has changed the policy previously taken by TARTA management (illegally) prohibiting lawful carry of firearms on TARTA buses.

This became an issue on April 8, 2004, with the enactment of concealed carry in the state of Ohio. As you recall, several cities, towns, villages, and townships illegally continued in force, or enacted, local prohibition(s) as to where one licensed to carry concealed firearms would be able to carry said firearms. Parks, jogging trails, bike paths, and public transportation systems were just some of these areas affected by these illegal policies/laws/ordinances.

I have, over the past several years, attempted to educate certain public "officials" as to the error in their ways, with some success. TARTA management, however, refused to listen to reason. They claimed they HAD to ban firearms, because school children rode on TARTA buses, and the buses traveled through "gun free school zones." I explained to Mr. Gee that those citizens licensed to carry concealed firearms were exempt from most restrictions in these zones under state and federal law, and subject to certain conditions. Still, he held his position.

Last month (February 2011) I spoke with my good friend Mark Goodremont, owner of Goodremont's, Inc., a Toledo printer and copier business. He said he knew Mr. Gee through a civic organization, and would address the issue with him. After consultation, Mr. Gee agreed to modify TARTA's policy, and changed TARTA's "passenger code of conduct" (which may be seen on TARTA's website.)

I have checked, and indeed the "passenger code of conduct" has been modified. However, Mr. Gee has stated that he will continue to post the familiar "no guns" signs on TARTA buses to convey that "illegal" weapons are not allowed. This, to me, is nothing but an attempt to intimidate the general public into believing that CCW is illegal on the buses. We're not there yet, but we're closer.

Bruce A. Beatty

If ever there was an example of how one person's patience and persistence can make a positive difference, this is it.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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