Riding the Rails

Staring at me from the front page of the Chronicle this morning, an only-in-Texas story about Metro's ban on guns on the transit system. (Short version: it's going away.)

For those who don't know: Texas has a "concealed carry" law, which means you are allowed to carry a handgun around as long as it is concealed. Metro (like many other transit systems in the state) had a ban on guns on the trains and buses. Of course, it's been under fire (so to speak) by gun folks.

In reality, I'm sure people have been carrying guns on Metro for some time, because really, there is no way to enforce the ban. So as insane as I think the whole thing is, I think this is probably the right call for Metro: if people in Texas want to be able to carry guns everywhere, it's not a great use of Metro resources to fight to keep an unenforceable and possibly illegal ban in place.

But as I read the comment from James and Mary Ann Knouse, who stopped riding Metro because they couldn't take along their guns to protect themselves, I got the distinct feeling I was hearing a voice from someone who lives on a different planet than I do.

Meanwhile, the gun crowd is going to turn their attention to other places with gun bans - like the Houston City Hall.

As a side note, this is one of those issues where my viewpoint has changed a bit over time. I think the idea that people toting guns makes us safer is just plain silly. Statistics show that having your own gun around can lead to it being used against you as easily as it can lead to you protecting yourself. And given the general tensions that pop up in daily life, arming the populace seems a bit risky. On the other hand, I don't think guns themselves are the root cause of violence; for that we need to turn to poverty and social inequality. (This was a point Michael Moore made in "Bowling for Columbine," where he took a look at Canada, a nation with high rates of gun ownership but low rates of violent crime - he suggested that this might be because of Canada's vastly superior social safety net that. It's impossible to tell if this is true from anecdotal evidence but it is worth thinking about. Gun advocates like to point out that "guns don't kill people, people kill people," and they have a point, but they never want to seem to move on to thinking about why people kill people, and what we might do to change that. The solution I guess, in these folks' eyes, is "... so we'd better shoot them first.")

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