Some party buses in Chicago will soon be required to include a security guard and surveillance camera under a crackdown that sailed through the City Council on Wednesday.
But, under state law, the city could not ban passengers with valid firearms licenses from boarding the buses with their guns.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed the new requirements last month after a string of shootings involving party buses.
“Party buses are supposed to be for celebrations, not potential rolling cemeteries,” Ald. Emma Mitts (37th Ward) said Wednesday.
Bus companies who transport 15 or more passengers and allow alcohol are now required to install security cameras on their buses by June 1. Security guards are also required for groups of 15 or more, and companies must hire one for any trips after May 1.
Penalties for breaking these rules can range from suspension, revocation or cease-and-desist orders for the single bus or entire company, with a maximum fine of $10,000.
Illinois’ concealed carry law keeps guns out of bars and restaurants that make the majority of their profits from alcohol sales, but it doesn’t mention anything about party buses. City lawyers told aldermen that because party buses are omitted from the state’s law, riders with gun licenses could have a strong legal argument against bus companies who prohibit firearms on buses.
“We did what we could do within the jurisdiction of what we can do,” Emanuel told reporters Wednesday.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd Ward) encouraged his colleagues to lobby state lawmakers to change the law and ban concealed carry on what he sees as “rolling bars.”
“I know the mayor and others are frustrated that we don’t have the ability to restrict firearms on these party buses, but I think all of us can speak with our local legislators, our state representatives and state senators to ask them to make this a legislative priority,” Reilly said.
Ald. David Moore (17th Ward) told his colleagues he worries that adding security guards to party buses could make matters worse.
“To have someone sitting back there, in your group, that you really don’t want in your group, sometimes can stir up situations,” Moore said.
For example, Moore said, something as “silly” as the security guard checking out women who are partying on the bus could have “the whole party end up beating the security guard’s butt.”
In other City Council news:
- The city is moving ahead with a municipal ID program. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th Ward) repeated his argument that the card wasn’t the city’s responsibility and was a waste of money and manpower. But many aldermen defended the card, saying it could give Chicagoans opportunities that range from renting apartments to getting books out from the library. There are still many unknowns about the card — like what kind of information applicants will have to share or the kinds of benefits cardholders might get. Emanuel said the city will immediately erase whatever information applicants provide them.
- Aldermen held off voting on a proposal that would weaken the city’s restrictions on shooting ranges. A federal appellate court ruled the city’s current laws were infringing on Chicagoans Second Amendment rights and they needed to be changed. Ald. Ed Burke (14th Ward) said some of his colleagues were fearful their vote could be described by political opponents as being in favor of guns.
- Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th Ward) was voted in as the new head of the Latino Caucus. The freshman alderman replaces Ald. George Cardenas (12th Ward).
Lauren Chooljian covers city politics for WBEZ. Follow her at @laurenchooljian.