Riders who can show proof of a valid CCW license will now be allowed to carry guns on Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority buses.
The revised policy was developed after much discussion with the transit board’s attorneys, CEO Mark Donaghy said. It passed without much discussion at the board’s regular meeting on Tuesday.
“It isn’t the wishes of the board on its own to make this change,” board member Franz Hoge said.
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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.
The changes come after pro-firearms groups protested the RTA’s ban on all weapons, saying it doesn’t align with Ohio laws about municipal bans on firearms.
“It’s high time that happened,” said Doug Deekon, a director of Ohioans for Concealed Carry. “They were in violation of state laws.”
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.
Donaghy said the RTA would prefer to have a weapons-free environment.
“Our highest priority is the safety of our customers and employees,” he said. “But at this point, given the change in the law, that’s not possible.”
The Buckeye Firearms Association heralded the change in policy on its website, saying the Dayton RTA has been illegally banning concealed carry on its buses for years. Toledo’s transit authority changed their policy in 2011 under similar pressure.
“There’s no reason, just because you choose public transportation, that you give up your right to defend yourself,” Deeken said. “That’s inherently wrong and discriminatory.”
The change comes as Dayton Public Schools is examining ways to save on busing, and is considering having about 2,000 DPS, charter and parochial middle school students start taking RTA buses. High school students already use RTA buses.
No decision has been made about that proposal, according to a district spokesperson, and the superintendent wasn’t available to comment on RTA’s decision Tuesday.
Jennifer Thorne, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, called the RTA policy change “very concerning,” especially with more students — and younger students — possibly using RTA buses.
“Obviously we’re extremely concerned about any proposal that would allow more guns in our public spaces, especially those occupied by children,” she said. “I’m not really sure what these families are supposed to do if they don’t want their kids around guns.”
One RTA rider on Tuesday said he has no problem with the new policy. People are already carrying guns on RTA buses, Jovan Roundtree said, just not legally.
“I don’t see no big problem with it,” Roundtree said. “I feel like they’re protecting themselves, that’s it.”