The Non-Story About Livery Drivers and Guns

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In the lead-up to Thursday's meeting about New York City's proposed five-borough taxi plan, a plan to allow for on-street hails (just like with yellow cabs) of livery cars in Manhattan's outer boroughs, Pete Donohue has written a rather stress-inducing piece in the New York Daily News. Its headline: "Let livery drivers carry guns: trade group."

The subhead indicates that this is an unlikely proposition at best—"TLC expected to shoot down proposal on Thursday." But the meat of the piece invokes the imagery of Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver nonetheless, claiming that an industry group, Livery Base Owners, had asked the Taxi and Limousine Commission "to let drivers bring their licensed guns to work with them to protect themselves from would-be robbers and violent passengers." Per Donohue:

“We are always concerned about the safety and security of drivers in our industry, so related issues were part of dozens of issues discussed by us and TLC representatives,” the group’s spokeswoman, Cira Angeles, said in a statement to The News.

Donohue writes that the TLC responded to the "suggestion" saying, essentially, no way. 

“It is important for public safety and perception to disallow any weapons in the vehicle,” the TLC wrote in response to the suggestion, records show.

Donohue goes on to say that the job of cab driver is one of the city's most dangerous, giving examples of drivers shot dead over fares and during robberies. It's polarizing stuff, particularly given the nation's broader debates over gun control. But, according to TLC spokesman Allan Fromberg, this gun question was never a real issue. He told The Atlantic Wire that in the hundreds of pages of rules that had to be codified with regard to the five-borough taxi plan, this was but one small item that came up among many. "There's one rule that says drivers are prohibited from carrying weapons of any kind," he said. "One representative from one driver group asked the hypothetical question, 'What happens if someone has a license to carry a weapon, how does this affect them?'" Fromberg says the question was not entertained by the TLC. "It doesn't matter if you have a permit or not, you're not allowed to have a weapon," he said. 

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As for the meeting Thursday, Fromberg says this is "where the rubber hits the road." WNYC's Kathleen Horan writes that there's some dissension among commissioners over whether this vote has been rushed, given the hundreds of pages of minutiae (including the gun rule) that must be parsed. 

If the plan is approved, a few hundred drivers will be authorized to pick up street hails starting in June, gradually ramping up to 6,000. The cars will be uniform to some extent: The color hasn't been decided on (green?), but they'll all be painted a standard color, have similar markings, a roof light, and will look "a lot like a taxi," says Fromberg. The fare system will be the same as well. And none of the drivers will be authorized to carry guns. 

Image via Shutterstock by SeanPavonePhoto.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.