Crime Skyrockets on D.C. Metro, Even Though It's a Gun-Free Zone
Carry permit holders sue over their Second Amendment right to self-defense on the violent subway system
Crime has tripled on the Washington Metro this year. Two teenagers were shot and killed this month on the city’s subway system in separate incidences. A Metro employee was killed in D.C. while trying to save a woman from a gunman. Three others were shot in that rampage.
Public transportation is dangerous in the nation’s capital.
The drastic crime spike adds pressure to a lawsuit against the District for prohibiting people who have a license to carry a pistol concealed from exercising their Second Amendment rights because the whole Metrorail system is a gun-free zone.
“Every day on the Metro, more people become victims of violent crimes while law-abiding carry permit holders are denied their right to defend themselves,” George Lyon, who is the attorney for the four plaintiffs in Angelo v District of Columbia, told me in an interview.
Illegal guns on trains
On Sunday, a 17-year-old was shot multiple times and killed midday inside the train car that was traveling to the Waterfront Metro Station — which is just blocks from the Nationals’ baseball stadium.
The police said the suspect and the victim, Brendan Ofori of Maryland, got into an altercation on the train. The suspect (photo below from surveillance video) has not been arrested by Wednesday night. A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department told me the case remains under investigation.
A few weeks ago, D.C. police said 18-year-old Tenneson Vaughn Leslie was killed in a Metro station by a 16-year-old (who then jumped on a train) with a 14-year-old accomplice.
A stupid criminal got a lot of coverage last week when he jumped the turnstiles in a Metro station in Pentagon City while carrying guns.
Demarcus Anthony Henderson (above) of Washington resisted accepting the fare evasion citation and refused to show identification. So, the Metro Transit Police arrested him and found the two handguns (photo below) and brass knuckles.
Henderson was charged with carrying concealed firearms without a permit. (I give you specific details below about how the carry gun laws are different on the Metro in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. below.)
Looking at Metro Transit Police crime statistics (here), the total serious crimes on the transit system up to the end of April jumped from 222 last year to 616 this year.
The number of secondary-level crimes – including simple assault, drug offenses and indecent exposure – went from 1,000 last year to 2,265 as of April 30 this year.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said in February after the shooting spree of four people that she would increase the police presence on the system, but it hasn’t helped.
The police stats show police are cracking down on fare evasion, with an increase from 115 to 607 arrests so far this year. However, Metro riders say they still see people jumping the turnstiles constantly.
Subways and Gun Carry
When the D.C. city council started to allow some people to get carry permits in 2015 (that’s when I became the first woman to get one), it limited where guns could be carried. The council blocked out large parts of the city (full list here) claiming those are considered “sensitive” places, which included the Metro system. Recently New York City added the same restriction on its subway.
All these laws are being challenged since the Supreme Court ruled last June that only five places were considered “sensitive” at the founding of the country, and none of them were related to transportation.
D.C. sued over conceal carry on Metro
Lyon of Arsenal Attorneys told me Wednesday that his clients have been waiting months for a ruling from the judge in their ongoing case.
The basis of their case is that their right to bear arms is being violated every day because they are not allowed to carry loaded guns on the cost-effective Metro. The men all have D.C. concealed carry permits and take the Metro on a regular basis.
U.S. District Judge Randolph Moss (an Obama appointee) denied the plaintiffs’ motion for injunctive relief last year. He also ruled that the men don’t have standing in the case because they can’t prove a “credible threat of prosecution” — meaning none of them have been threatened with arrest.
Lyon addressed the standing issue but then upped the ante by filing suit against the Metro Transit Police Chief and the District’s Attorney General Brian Schwalb. He told me that if the judge rules against them on any of the matters, they will appeal.
Conceal Carry DMV
The gun laws and Metro system in D.C. are probably the most complicated in the nation. The District, Virginia and Maryland are all closely connected by the Metro. Here are the main points:
The District gives carry permits to a citizen of any state.
D.C. permits are valid in Virginia but not Maryland.
Virginia and Maryland permits are not valid in D.C.
Virginia and Maryland allow for concealed carry on their parts of Metro.
This is why Henderson (the turnstile jumper) was charged with carrying without a permit instead of illegal possession of an unregistered firearm and ammunition when he was arrested.
One of the plaintiffs in the Angelo case is a Virginia resident.
Virginia and Maryland residents with D.C. permits are required to unload their firearms and put them in locked cases before they enter the city on any Metro bus or train.
I asked a police spokesman for details on how this works in practice and was sent a lin to the complex transport laws here.
How I Legally Brought a Gun on the Metro
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial