Rahm Emanuel cracks down yet again on party buses

SHARE Rahm Emanuel cracks down yet again on party buses

Mayor Rahm Emanuel. | Maria Cardona / Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel promised to “push the envelope” to prevent passengers from carrying concealed weapons aboard party buses after three semi-automatic weapons were discovered on an overcrowded party bus last weekend.

But, the latest version of the mayor’s evolving party bus crackdown doesn’t quite live up to that definition.

Only the Illinois General Assembly can stop the toxic and potentially deadly mix of party buses and guests carrying concealed weapons–by amending the concealed carry law by adding party buses to the no-guns category that includes restaurants and bars.

So, Emanuel is trying to go as far as he legally can to rein in, what he calls “fly-by-night actors” operating in the “land of loopholes.”

Party buses with fifteen or more passengers that have alcohol on board or make interim stops where alcohol will be consumed would be required to hire “licensed security guards” instead of “chaperones.” They would also be required to install video cameras.

The bus owner, driver, security guard or all of the above would be required to take “affirmative measures to determine that no passenger is illegally carrying a firearm.”

The mayor’s office did not explain what those “affirmative measures” would be. Nor was it explained how “affirmative measures” of any kind would be legal, so long as the state’s concealed carry law still allows patrons to carry concealed weapons on party buses instead of including party buses in the no-guns category that includes restaurants and bars.

The mayor’s ordinance also makes several other changes that would apply to all party bus operators, no matter how many passengers are served or how many stops are made.

One of the amendments would allow “triggers for [license] suspension, revocation or cease and desist” orders to “apply across the entire fleet,” instead of applying, only to the one party bus where the incident occurred.

Party bus operators applying for a city license would also be required to disclose the location of the company’s entire fleet of vehicles.

The city would be empowered to require a “plan of action to resume operations” from party bus companies slapped with violations or cited for operating without a license.

And the ordinance would be effective immediately, with administrative requirements delayed until June 1.

Earlier this week, Emanuel made it clear that he would prefer having the Illinois General Assembly amend the concealed carry law to put party buses in the same category as bars and restaurants.

But the mayor said he was no longer prepared to wait after Chicago Police officers prevented a potentially violent confrontation last weekend.

“There are some fly-by-night actors. They’ve been operating in the land of loopholes. We’re gonna tighten those loopholes,” Emanuel said then.

“We’re going to do everything within our power to push the envelope to make sure that our neighborhoods are safe and secure….They’re looking right now at how to push the envelope to keep guns off party buses.”

The latest in a series of violent incidents or near-disasters aboard party buses occurred on Friday night in the 1200-block of South Lake Shore Drive.

Chicago Police got a tip about an overcrowded party bus with guns on board and spotted the bus at around 9:45 p.m.

When the bus was stopped, three semi-automatic weapons were discovered, along with drugs, including marijuana. Two men with, what police called documented gang affiliations were arrested for alleged parole violations. The bus was cited for having too many passengers on board and operating without a license.

The mayor’s latest crackdown would raise the minimum fines ten-fold—from $100 to $1,000 for the first offense to a maximum fine of $10,000.

The mayor’s latest crackdown is expected to be approved by the City Council’s License Committee and the full City Council on Wednesday in place of a weaker version approved in response to the shooting death of a party bus patron in March.

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