Attorney General Bonta Urges Court to Uphold Prohibitions of Firearms on Public Transit

Monday, September 26, 2022
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

OAKLAND  California Attorney General Rob Bonta, as part of a coalition of 15 attorneys general, today announced filing an amicus brief in support of the District of Columbia and states’ authority to regulate firearms on public transit systems and protect communities seeking access to safe public transportation. In the brief, the coalition asserts that states have the authority to enact regulations that protect public health and welfare based on community need. Denying states the ability to regulate firearms on public transportation would not only disrupt the operations of public transportation systems, but profoundly endanger people's lives. Attorney General Bonta especially emphasizes the great risk to children and vulnerable communities who use public transportation.

"What the data tells us is clear: More guns in more places leads to more violence," said Attorney General Bonta. "Children and families have a right to feel and be safe as they travel to school or to work, and they deserve to access the services they need without the presence of dangerous weapons. Allowing firearms on our public transit creates considerable and unnecessary risk. There have been too many tragedies as a result of gun violence — it's time to end this public health crisis.”

Attorney General Bonta urges the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to uphold the District of Columbia’s commonsense, constitutional law prohibiting public-carry license holders from carrying handguns on D.C.’s Metrorail transit system. In the brief, the attorneys general assert that states' and the District of Columbia's powers to implement these prohibitions are particularly important because public transportation is a central way employees commute to work, children get to and from school, and people with disabilities can participate fully in their communities. 

The United States has the world’s largest mass transit network, serving tens of millions of riders on an average weekday. This transportation infrastructure helps ensure that workers are able to access more employment opportunities, while also providing employers with a greater pool of potential employees. 

Moreover, many students in California travel by public transport to get to school each day. Some school districts, including Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest school district in the state and the second largest in the nation, provide daily bus service to the general student body through free public transit passes.

Access to transportation can be a vital component of inclusion and community participation. The increased potential for gun violence threatens the ability of public transportation systems to serve these crucial functions. 

In the brief, the states urge the court to uphold the District of Columbia’s prohibition of, and state’s ability to regulate, firearms on public transit as:

  • Firearms pose unique dangers on public transportation, which is often crowded, increasing the risk of injury due to stray bullets and accidental discharge, and inviting deadly escalation of conflicts.
  • The risks are particularly stark for the many riders who are members of vulnerable groups including children, people with disabilities, and the elderly who often rely on public transportation.
  • The Second Amendment allows states to implement varied regulations tailored to local needs to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents, including in ways to protect and safely operate public transit.   
  • The proposed regulation is consistent with public safety measures implemented across the country by federal law, as well as states, local governments and public transportation systems that prohibit firearms in sensitive places. Federal law regulations uniformly prohibit carrying firearms in some sensitive places, such as post offices, parts of airports, and airplanes. Most states prohibit firearms in other sensitive places. California, for example, prohibits firearms in schools and entertainment venues. Montana and North Dakota prohibit firearms in wildlife preserves. Florida and Kentucky prohibit firearms in bars.

Gun violence remains a growing threat to public safety throughout the nation. On average, there are over 110 gun deaths each day and nearly 41,000 each year in the U.S. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents; with U.S. children being more likely to die from gun violence than in any other comparable country.

California continues its efforts to advance laws and policies that save lives and prevent gun deaths. In 2021, California saw a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California’s gun death rate was the 6th lowest in the nation, with 8.5 gun deaths per 100,000 people — compared to 13.7 deaths per 100,000 nationally, 28.6 in Mississippi, 20.7 in Oklahoma, and 14.2 in Texas. California’s gun death rate for children is also lower than other states, and is 58% lower than the national average. 

Attorney General Bonta stands with partners throughout the state to continue tackling the issue of gun violence strategically and aggressively by: 

 A copy of the brief is available here.

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