It’s against the law for most people to bring a firearm onto public transportation in Chicago, but that prohibition doesn’t seem to be stopping too many people with criminal intent. A couple of weeks ago an off-duty security guard (one of the few categories of firearms owners who are allowed to carry in the supposedly “gun-free” zone) shot an armed robber on a Green Line train, and while acts of self-defense on CTA property are rare, unfortunately armed robberies are much more common occurances.
The two teens arrested on a Red Line train early Thursday morning aren’t accused of committing any violent acts, but the charges they are facing are more evidence that the CTA is anything but a “gun-free zone”, as well as a searing indictment on the ineffectiveness of the gun control laws already in place in the city and state.
Two boys, 15 and 16, are arrested and charged after officers discovered guns on them on a CTA train Thursday morning.
Chicago police said around 1:08 a.m., officers were conducting a platform check, in the 100 block of South State Street, when they saw the teens together and one was smoking on a train car.
After speaking with the teens, they found them to be in possession of firearms including a rifle and a ghost gun.
The two teens have both been charged with unlawful use of a weapon, but their status as juveniles will likely allow them to escape serious consequences… unlike any unfortunate concealed carry holder who might be busted with her concealed pistol carried for self-defense.
Crime on Chicago Transit Authority property has even become an issue in the city’s mayoral race, with several challengers to Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s re-election bid criticizing the lack of safety on public transportation.
The latest mayoral forum, moderated by WBEZ Reset host Sasha-Ann Simons, largely focused on public safety, transportation and education. U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García, state Rep. Kambium “Kam” Buckner, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and Ald. Sophia King shared the stage with Lightfoot, while the remaining four candidates are expected to participate in a second event Thursday.
While the candidates largely refrained from making personal attacks on each other, Lightfoot’s opponents argued the city is going in the wrong direction on key issues while she said her administration is making strides.
In response to a question about the safety and reliability of the CTA, Buckner said he’d planned to take a bus to the forum but was ghosted.
“Realistically, when it comes to where this system is right now, we are falling way behind the market,” Buckner said. “It’s because we haven’t done the planning and there hasn’t been leadership.”
Garcia also ripped the CTA’s leadership and promised to bring stakeholders together to improve the system, which he said he is in a unique position to do.
“I am deeply disappointed and pissed off that buses are dirty, trains are filthy, people doing all kinds of things that didn’t happen just a few years ago,” he said.
King talked up the need to improve safety and boost ridership.
“We need to take the dollars that we’re spending on private security to pool that back to officers,” King said.
Buckner similarly criticized the city for spending money on K-9 unit German shepherds to patrol the CTA which, he said, was ineffective: “Nobody on the system feels safer than they did a few years ago.”
Violent crime has increased by more than 600% on CTA trains since 2015, and while there was a slight decline between 2021 and 2022, the crime rates are still some of the highest in decades. It’s clear that Chicago’s criminals see the CTA as a target-rich environment with plenty of unarmed victims to choose from, and it’s long past time for the city to end its failed policy of keeping responsible gun owners disarmed while they’re riding the rails.
The Supreme Court has said the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms in self-defense in public, and a federal lawsuit challenging the CTA’s designation as a “sensitive place” is currently underway. It should be a no-brainer for the courts to declare the policy unconstitutional, but frankly it’s ridiculous that a lawsuit is necessary in the first place. Forget the lack of historical analogues to banning guns from public transportation for a second. Just from a common-sense perspective the current law is a miserable failure as well. It’s clearly not stopping those with criminal intent from boarding trains with their illegally-carried guns, but it is preventing law-abiding citizens from being able to protect themselves from their armed attackers.
It shouldn’t take a court order to change the law, but we’ve already seen how hostile the Democrats in control of state government are to the Second Amendment rights of Illinois residents. Schoenthal v. Raoul may be the best opportunity gun owners have to undo this particular infringement, and though the case is in its early stages we’re likely to see some major developments in the next few months. Stay tuned… and if you’re forced by circumstance to board a CTA train, be safe out there.