SALT LAKE CITY — A Utah lawmaker is considering expanding the right to carry a weapon on a bus or train without permission, arguing it should be no different than carrying a gun or knife on the street.
Provo Republican Rep. Norman Thurston cites a state hijacking law that makes it a felony for anyone to carry a concealed gun or dangerous weapon on a bus or train.
While the law makes exceptions for those with permits or permission from the transit owner, Thurston said it allows someone to very easily commit a crime without realizing it.
"You were perfectly fine walking down the street and then you get on a bus and now you're a felon." Thurston said. "You're not doing anything different."
Utah Transit Authority spokesman Remi Barron said the agency has not had any problems with riders carrying concealed weapons on trains or buses and didn't believe anyone had been cited for it.
Thurston said someone in his district pointed him toward the issue while exploring whether to use public transit to commute to work. He's has started a bill to tackle the issue during the upcoming legislative session, but it's not public yet and Thurston said he's still figuring out exactly how to change the law.
Because Thurston's bill has not been written or shared, the agency has no position on it, Barron said.
Under Utah law, if someone is carrying a gun or another weapon illegally on public streets, it's a misdemeanor in most cases. But on a bus or train, it's a felony, Thurston said.
"If it's legal to be on the street, it should be legal to be on a bus," he said. "If it's illegal to be on the street, it should be the same type of illegal to be on the bus."
Miriam Walkingshaw of Utah Parents Against Gun Violence, said that while someone may cite protection as a reason to carry a weapon, she's concerned about public safety risks if they carry it on a bus or train where many people might be moving in and out.
"If their weapon isn't secured safely," she said, "It's just one of those incidents where I think the risk of something going wrong or someone deliberately using it in a bad way is higher than any change of it preventing any sort of crime."
Thurston said he doesn't know if transit officials are regularly citing people under the law, but if they're not, that's another reason to take it off the books, he said.