VRE changes policy to comply with Virginia law and allow gun carry on trains.

September 20th, 2009 at 8:54

Virginia Railway Express passengers can now carry firearms on the train — at least in Virginia.

Date published: 9/19/2009

By KELLY HANNON

WOODBRIDGE

–Virginia law required the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board to yesterday reverse a policy that banned passengers from carrying firearms on trains.Passengers will now be allowed to openly carry firearms on VRE trains in Virginia, and carry concealed weapons if they have a permit to do so.

“People can carry firearms, therefore you can carry them on the train,” said Dale Zehner, VRE’s chief executive officer.

However, Virginia law would not apply once VRE trains cross the Potomac River into Washington.

When riders contact Zehner about carrying firearms onto trains, he reminds them that they must comply with D.C. laws if they ride into the city.

“It’s interesting, a lot of them don’t know that,” Zehner said.

Passengers contacted VRE staff to inform them that the firearms ban violated Virginia law, Zehner said, speaking to Operations Board members yesterday at a meeting in Woodbridge. Subsequently, VRE staff recommended the board change the policy to comply with state law.

Only D.C. residents can register a handgun in Washington, however, and the city does not issue carry permits, said Quintin Peterson, Metropolitan Police Department spokesman. So VRE passengers would not be allowed to carry firearms on the train once the train is in Washington, Peterson said.

Operations Board members voted to change the policy, although members expressed mixed opinions.

Operations Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman, an Arlington County supervisor, said he’s concerned that the change will send the wrong message, encouraging passengers to bring guns onto the train and possibly get into legal trouble in Washington.

“I think encouraging people to bring guns onto loaded trains is a stupid idea,” Zimmerman said.

Stafford County Supervisor and Operations Board Vice Chairman Paul Milde said he disagreed with Zimmerman “100 percent on this.”

Milde said there’s no evidence that allowing passengers to carry firearms will lead to an increase in violence, and that allowing firearms could lead to a decrease. “I don’t know that people feel like the government is capable of protecting them in all places at all times,” Milde said.

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