- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - A Republican state lawmaker on Wednesday said his proposal to allow certain bus and train riders to carry guns would help Missourians protect themselves, while public transit lobbyists raised concerns that the measure strips away local control.

If signed into law, Rep. Ron Hicks’ bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to openly bring firearms on public transit systems.

The Wednesday House committee hearing on the legislation comes after a man was attacked by a group of men on March 24 while riding the St. Louis MetroLink. A 20-year-old man was charged Tuesday with assaulting the commuter, who reported he was attacked after being asked about last summer’s police shooting death of Michael Brown and the ensuing racial unrest in nearby Ferguson.

Hicks, a St. Peters resident with a concealed carry license, said he’s only taken two trips on the light rail, does not allow weapons on its trains.

On one ride, Hicks said he noticed a man carrying an unholstered gun. He and his wife watched a fight unfold during another ride, but said he did not intervene because it was between two individuals.

“The bottom line is, I want to be able to protect my family,” Hicks said. “On my way home, did I fear for my wife and I a little bit? Yes.”

Democrats and lobbyists for city public transit systems criticized the measure as taking away local control.

Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, argued locals should be in charge of gun policies, adding, “I do not care if you strap a bazooka to your belt in rural areas.”

He said he worried a gun could have meant deaths in the St. Louis attack last month.

“I’d rather err on the side of caution in my urban metro area than continue to carry the flag to the point of absurdity for gun rights,” Colona said.

Weapons are not allowed on public transportation in Springfield or in Kansas City, which both had a representative speak against Hicks’ measure.

Several other bills to expand where gun owners can bring their weapons also were discussed Wednesday, including a provision that would permit the weapons to be kept out of sight in a locked car or in a locked container.

Another measure would allow concealed guns to be carried anywhere not expressly forbidden by law.

A committee vote is not yet scheduled for the bills.

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The guns on public transit bill is HB 1080.

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Online:

House: https://www.house.mo.gov

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Follow Summer Ballentine at: https://www.twitter.com/esballentine

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