In late February, the Transportation Security Administration took over the Amtrak station in Savannah, Ga., and thoroughly searched every person who entered. None of the passengers got into trouble, but the TSA certainly did â€” big time.
Amtrak Police Chief John Oâ€™Connor said he first thought a blog posting about the incident was a joke. When he discovered that the TSAâ€™s VIPR team did at least some of what the blog said, he was livid. He ordered the VIPR teams off Amtrak property, at least until a firm agreement can be drawn up to prevent the TSA from taking actions that the chief said were illegal and clearly contrary to Amtrak policy.
I would imagine there would be Fourth Amendment implications as well. Imagine if they had done this at, say, Amtrak’s 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. How many armed passengers are proceeding through that station on a daily basis? The status of Amtrak is actually a matter of dispute. In a First Amendment context, they are considered a government actor. But for the purposes of prohibiting firearms, they claim to be a private corporation and are thus can exclude people with firearms from their property, including their stations, as a matter of private property.
It’s probably a good idea if you’re carrying in an Amtrak station to leave if they ask you to. But I really wonder with what statutory authority TSA thought it was operating under. And could you be arrested for carrying a gun through their checkpoint, as you would be at an airport?
UPDATE: Hat tip to Ian Argent for the story.