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Ban Guns From Party Buses, Rahm Says After Latest Arrests On Board

  The City Council's senior alderman is calling for a crackdown on rowdy
The City Council's senior alderman is calling for a crackdown on rowdy "party buses."
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Flickr/Tyler Bedgood

CALUMET HEIGHTS — Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he has ordered city staff to find a way to ban guns from party buses as part of a crackdown on the rowdy parties on wheels set to be considered by the City Council.

Emanuel, speaking to reporters at an unrelated event in Calumet Heights on Monday, said he wants to explore every possible way of keeping guns off the buses — even if officials have to "push the envelope" of their strategy.

The measure that had been expected to be considered by the full City Council would require bus operators to install security cameras, hire more security personnel and eject rowdy passengers.

The City Council's Committee on License and Consumer Protection will meet before the full City Council meeting Wednesday morning to consider the new proposals from the mayor's office, which include a requirement for licensed security guards as well as cameras.

Either the owner of the bus or an employee "must take affirmative measures to determine that no passenger is illegally carrying a firearm," according to the mayor's proposed regulations.

The buses feature a "bad combination of substance abuse and guns," Emanuel said.

"We are going to close every one of the loopholes," Emanuel said.

The latest crackdown was prompted by the shooting death of Quentin Payton, 28, of West Ridge. He died March 12 after a "verbal altercation" led to an exchange of gunfire between a dark-colored SUV and someone on the party bus after it stopped at the Dunkin Donuts at 6332 N. Broadway.

Two others were injured in the altercation.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), one of the co-sponsors of the ordinance, said Monday morning before the mayor's remarks that he was unaware of any substantive changes to the measure.

During last week's hearing, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) urged city staff to ban guns from the buses, only to be told state law prevents the city from taking action to block guns from the buses.

Smith said that left her frustrated — a feeling that Emanuel clearly shares.

"The fly-by-night operators are the problem," Emanuel said. "They operate in the land of loopholes."

Emanuel praised Chicago Police Department officers for resolving an incident involving a party bus Friday.

Three semi-automatic handguns with extended magazines as well as drugs were seized by police from an overcrowded party bus on Lake Shore Drive near the Museum Campus, according to a statement from police.

Two men on board who are affiliated with a Chicago gang were arrested for violating their parole, according to the statement.

In addition, the party bus was cited for not having the proper license and for carrying an excessive number of passengers on the bus, according to the statement.

Approximately 370 party buses operate in the city, officials said.

The measure is also designed to give officials authority to impound buses operating without a license and increasing the fine for that violation to $5,000. The buses would have to clearly identify their license information.

Party buses that carry at least 15 people and allow drinking on board — or stop at multiple watering holes — would be forced to follow the new rules, which would allow the operators to end a trip immediately if a passenger refuses to obey the rules, according to the measure.

The measure would also stiffen fines significantly, with the punishment for a first offense rising from $100 to $1,000, with maximum fine of $10,000 for multiple offenses.

In September, the City Council passed a law requiring drivers to call police if drunken patrons toss bottles from the vehicle, moon or flash passersby or use illegal drugs after a spate of shootings.

But that didn't stop the violence — three people were injured in a December shooting aboard a party bus in Lakeview, the sixth party bus shooting with injuries in 14 months.