Chicago Falls Short on Solutions to Curb Party Bus Shootings

Auug. 31, 2016: A group of men get off of a bus at Chicago’s Buckingham Fountain. They argue with a 22-year-old man on the sidewalk, and one of them shoots him in the thigh. He survives.

Sept. 3, 2016: Passengers on two buses parked by the Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s in River North taunt and threaten each other. Someone from one of the buses pulls out a gun and fires. No one is hurt.

March 12, 2017: People inside a bus outside a Dunkin’ Donuts in Edgewater get into a shouting match with someone in a nearby SUV. There’s an exchange of gunfire. Three people are shot, two die.

The common thread: The buses were party buses.

You’ve seen these barrooms-on-wheels. All too often they’re obnoxiously loud and jammed with as many as 50 booze-addled revelers. At least the drunks aren’t driving. Party on, Garth.

But firearms have no business on the buses. Booze and guns are a bad mix; booze, guns and a party on wheels is a tragedy in the making.

Since 2015, party buses in Chicago have been the scene of at least 11 shootings, three of them fatal. Something’s wrong with this picture.

The city has tried to rein in party buses before. In September, the City Council passed an ordinance requiring party bus drivers to call police if someone on the bus throws a bottle out the window, smokes pot or fires a gun. That hasn’t solved the problem.

Now Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposes an ordinance that would require party bus companies to install security cameras on buses and have security guards on board if passengers are drinking. Buses would have to display signage, so that law-breaking or nuisance party bus operators could be identified. And the city would clamp down on illegal operators by conducting periodic sweeps.

We’re glad the city recognizes that party buses have a problem, but we doubt the proposed ordinance will solve it. The guns have to go.

Legally, someone on a party bus can carry a loaded gun because, like every other state in the country, Illinois has a concealed carry law. That law prevents patrons from bringing guns into a bar or restaurant where more than 50 percent of sales are alcohol-related — but that restriction doesn’t apply to party buses, where passengers bring their own liquor on board. In BYOB establishments, it’s up to the owner to decide whether to ban guns. Some party bus companies have no-weapons policies for their buses, but company officials told the Tribune in December that those bans are rarely enforced.

So let’s put some muscle behind them. Lawmakers in Springfield should amend the concealed carry law to add party buses to the list of venues where guns are banned. Afterward, if a party bus company is caught allowing a gun on board, that company’s license should be pulled.

Guns are banned in bars for the obvious reason that armed patrons with guns and several rum-and-Cokes in their bloodstream pose a clear and present danger to themselves and anyone around them. The fact that the alcohol is sold by the bar, whereas on a party bus it’s brought on board by patrons, is a distinction without a difference. The risk posed by the coupling of alcohol and firearms is a constant.

Party buses move through traffic, through residential neighborhoods and along busy downtown streets. Often, the itinerary entails a pub crawl — going bar to bar to drink, and drinking on the bus between stops. It should come as no surprise that several of the incidents of gunfire involved inebriated passengers getting into shouting matches with passers-by or people in nearby vehicles.

Taking the gun out of that equation is just plain common sense.

Article Org: chicagotribune.com

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