Janet Lee

Janet Lee
Photo:Janet Lee, injured by a taxi partition.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Bostonians Wary Over Order to Let Taxi Drivers Carry Guns

Special to the New York Times (2/19/84)
BOSTON. Feb. 17 - Paul MorriIl took his gun off the shelf on Tuesday night, filled each chamber with a bullet, placed the gun in its holster and strapped the holster to his waist.
Then looked at myself in the mirror and I said, 'What in the world am I doing?'" said Mr. Morrill, an independent cab driver in Boston for 16 years. "It's time to quit if I have to carry a gun. So I just unloaded it and put it back away. If I become that afraid[1], I'd sell my cab.
After the second murder of a taxi driver in four days, Police Commissioner Joseph M. Jordan announced Monday that cabbies, Iicensed to carry arms, would be allowed to take guns on duty. Drivers had been prohibited[2] from being armed.
Last Sunday, Andre Louis, a driver for the United Cab Company, was shot and killed, apparently in a robbery. A Checker Cab Company driver, Fertil Supre, was similarly slain Feb 8.
'It could have been me'
            "They were cab drivers" said Kevin Carter,' general manager of United Cab. "I'm a cab driver it could have been me, but are guns[3] the answer?"
What about the guys[4] who aren't licensed?"
Since Monday, the Boston Police Department Licensing Unit has received about 150 applications to carry guns according to Patrolman Eugene Simpson. He added that only six drivers met preliminary qualifications to apply. An applicant must be a citizen, have no felony convictions and no arrest's related to drugs. The licensing process takes more than a month. Boston has 10,500 licensed cabs drivers.
          "Most people think now that every cab driver out there has a gun, said Rodney Solomon, a Checker driver who went to the Police Department Thursday to apply for a gun license  But it seems to be a lot rhetoric. It sounds good to the cabbies, but it's going to be hard for any of us to get a license. Meanwhile I feel threatened and I would feeI more secure if I had a gun. My wife doesn't want me to carry a gun or drive cab either. She thinks they're both too dangerous.

Order criticized by Mayor

The order by Commissioner Jordon, has been sharply criticized Mayor Raymond L. Flynn. "I don't want to second guess him in a volatile, emergency situation," said Mr. Flynn  "but I fail to see the wisdom of this directive. I'm a strong advocate of regulating and controlling the use of firearms. This policy of the Commissioner is completely contrary to precedence over a sound public safety program.
          A check of other cities, including New York, Los AngeIes, Miami, and Chicago, found their cab drivers are not allowed to carry firearms on duty.
Whenever taxi drivers gather in Boston over the past week for coffee in filling stations late at night waiting for passengers in front of Fanuel Hall, they talk about the ruling.

Opposition by the Public

I am totally against it said Shahpur Javidpur, an Iranian immigrant who has been driving a taxi for a year. "I don t like the idea of being a sitting duck but with armed drivers it becomes who is the fastest gun. What we need is faster response time by police when a taxi signals for help.
Many people in Boston seem opposed to the ruling. A number said in interviews that the move put the drivers and passengers in a more vulnerable situation.

Who's to know if a cabbie might not mistake what a passenger is doing, feel threatened and misuse the gun?" said Sheila Kennedy of Framingham, "it's a bad idea to give permission to someone to have a gun on them while they are performing a service in public.

Ed Burke of Melrose said "If it was commonly accepted that most drivers did carry guns I would not get in a cab. I don't think that most drivers are emotionally stable enough to carry weapon, and I think that having a gun in a cab can only lead to added violence.

Some drivers said they feared the new ruling might make the driver shoot first in a holdup. "A lot of drivers have a great fear now that instead of just being robbed, they are going to be killed, one driver said.
Dana Cochrane, treasurer and business manager of the Independent Taxi Operators Association which backs the ruling, said "This is a violence that goes beyond robbery. I think other companies are afraid of civil liability. We're only concerned with lives, with the safety of our drivers, not with lawsuits or money. We feel that the ability of a driver to carry a gun will serve as a deterrent factor and we strongly support the Commissioners action.

[1] A cab driver carrying a gun is not an indicator of fear, but rather an indication that he is aware of the risk and is appropriately prepared.
[2] On February 10th, 1984, I visited Captain Arthur Cadegan at his office where he was Commander of the Boston Police Department Hackney Division. I asked him where it was written down that cab drivers are not allowed to carry pistols. He told me it actually wasn't technically written down anywhere. I suggested that the position that the police department had staked out was illegal and subjected them to civil liability on several fronts. I did my best to convince him that I would pursue such civil action if it was not announced that cab drivers ARE allowed to be armed.
[3] This is assuming that there is an ANSWER. I would consider gun toting cab drivers an appropriate condition, although maybe not an answer, considering the cab driver murder rate is 2 to 3 times greater than that of the police.
[4] 'The guys who aren't licensed' are the same now as the guys who have licenses were - before procuring them. What is the problem getting a license? The supreme court guidelines for pistol permit application rejection are - violent mental history and felony history. Cab drivers have neither of these or they would be unable to get a taxi permit.

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