Sep 16, 2009 5:12 PM by Associated Press
The Senate has passed a measure that would let Amtrak rail passengers carry handguns in their checked bags.
Supporters say the measure is an effort to give Amtrak riders the same gun rights as airline passengers. Air travelers are allowed to transport firearms in checked baggage so long as they declare they are doing so. The arms must also be unloaded and in a securely locked container. The amendment would deny the railroad its $1.6 billion taxpayer subsidy unless it changes the gun policy. Opponents of the policy say it would be too costly and burdensome for Amtrak to make sure checked firearms wouldn't be lost, stolen or misused.
Amtrak had once allowed firearms on its trains so long as they were secured in locked baggage or carrying cases. But it added restrictions after the Sept. 11 attacks, and imposed a total ban after the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
Wednesday's vote is the latest in a string of victories for gun rights activists in the Senate. The bill still needs to be reconciled with a House-passed measure that doesn't include the gun-rights provision.