D.C. Metro Says It Follows Local Laws on Gun Carry

Comments from WMATA contradict D.C. Council chairman

• July 20, 2015 5:00 am


The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has no internal policy on the carrying of firearms within its system and follows the laws of the jurisdictions it operates in, according to a spokesman.

"We are governed by the laws of each jurisdiction," said Mike Tolbert, a WMATA spokesman, when asked if the transit authority had its own policy regarding gun carry.

The clarification comes after Chairman Phil Mendelson (D.) of the D.C. city council responded to gun rights groups critical of a recent fatal stabbing on Metro by saying that removing the city’s statutory ban against carry on the public transit system would have no effect on carry within the system.

"The law, as revised last fall, gives property owners the right to prohibit carrying on their premises," Mendelson said via email. "WMATA contacted the council prior to our action on the legislation last fall to ask that their premises be off-limits to carrying. WMATA (buses, rail, etc.) was then added to the list. If we were to act to remove WMATA from the list, the effect would be unaffected."

However, the Virginia State Police, the Maryland State Police, and WMATA all confirmed that gun carry in the system is legal within those states so long as the carrier has the proper permit.

Those with gun carry permits recognized by Virginia may carry on metro facilities within Virginia. "Virginia law does not specifically prohibit the carry of a firearm by a concealed permit holder on the metro," said Corinne Geller, a Virginia State Police official.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) reiterated Geller’s point and emphasized that while metro has not previously publicly commented on gun carry in Virginia, it has long been understood to be legal. "VCDL has long understood that the metro allows local law to control the carry of firearms," said Philip Van Cleave, VCDL’s president. "For gun owners in Virginia, whose travel will keep them in Virginia and not enter Maryland or D.C., that means they can, and do, carry on the metro."

Though Maryland issues relatively few permits compared with Virginia, Maryland State Police say that those who do have a Maryland gun carry permit are permitted to carry on the metro within the state. "As long as the permit holder is abiding by the restrictions of the permit, they may do so," said Elena Russo, a Maryland State Police spokesperson."It is the holder’s responsibility to know where one is prohibited from carrying a handgun."

That leaves the District of Columbia, where Jasper Spires stabbed Kevin Joseph Sutherland to death near WMATA’s NoMa-Gallaudet station on July 4, as the only jurisdiction that prohibits gun carry in WMATA facilities, even by those with a permit.

Chairman Mendelson did not return requests for additional comment.