New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg teamed up with two Democratic members of Congress yesterday to blast the Senate for its vote in favor of forcing Amtrak to allow guns and ammunition in passengers' checked baggage.
Bloomberg, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) were joined by the Democratic mayors of Philadelphia, Jersey City, and Trenton at a Penn Station press conference intended to spotlight Republican senators' successful bid to deny Amtrak any U.S. DOT funds next year unless the train network accepts firearms in baggage.
Local reporters found Bloomberg unabashedly critical of the Senate GOP's move:
“If anyone in Congress thinks the threat of terrorist attacks on trains have gone away, they are mistaken,” the mayor said. Bloomberg said that the Amtrak security was already pretty lax, and if the new bill passes, there wouldn’t be anything keeping someone from carrying multiple assault weapons in their baggage.The Amtrak amendment is not the first time this summer that Bloomberg, who is running for a third term this fall on the GOP and Independent tickets, has leapt to Democrats' defense on the issue of gun possession. The mayor helped mobilize opposition to a July amendment from Sen. John Thune (D-SD) that would have relaxed rules governing the transport of concealed weapons across state lines.
“And the American people will blame the Senate if a terrorist attack does occur,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the second amendment and the right to bear arms, but everything to do with keeping passengers safe.”
Nor is yesterday's press conference the first gauntlet thrown over the Amtrak amendment, which would force the train network to significantly strengthen its security screening process without providing any federal aid to help with such a move.
On Thursday a gun-rights group in Washington state accused Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) of showing "bigotry" against gun owners by voting against the amendment -- a charge aimed at pressuring Democrats into keeping the provision in the final version of the 2010 U.S. DOT spending bill.
The final word may not come until next month at the earliest, when negotiators from the Senate and House, which did not take up the guns-on-Amtrak question, will unveil the merged version of their two chambers' transportation bills.