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Proposed Rule Change Could Allow Cedar Rapids Cab Drivers to Carry Weapons

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A proposal to allow Cedar Rapids cab drivers to carry weapons if properly licensed could go before the city council by the end of the month. But it's not a reaction to last Friday's stabbing death of Cedar Rapids cab driver Cathy Stickley,54.

The Cedar Rapids Public Safety Committee plans to submit a series of proposed changes in the city's Taxi/Limo Ordinance (Chapter 52). And included among the new licenses fees, liability insurance requirements and other routine issues is a single line allowing firearms in a cab or limo if the driver is legally licensed to carry and if the cab company approves.

Right now, the city ordinance that covers cabs doesn't give drivers much leeway in protecting themselves with a weapon. The rule currently is no firearms, no knives with blades longer than three inches and no "assault weapons." Police said it's impossible to say if Stickley could have fought off an attacker if armed. But some other cabbies are beginning to take an interest in the rule.

Joe Hartgrave, a cab driver in Cedar Rapids, said "I think if you can walk down the street and carry a gun in your pocket and we're picking you up I think we should be able to have something."

Members of the Public Safety Committee met Monday to consider ordinance changes including the one to allow weapons with proper licensing. The agenda for the discussion was published last Friday, the day the Cedar Rapids Cab Driver died from a stabbing during an apparent robbery. But Brad DeBrower, Cedar Rapids Transit director, said the issue first came up for discussion some time ago in response to rule changes for carrying a concealed weapon.

DeBrower said "we look at it no different than any other business. If a particular cab company wants to prohibit it, they can do so. But we don't feel the ordinance should do that."

Some drivers said a few might welcome the opportunity to carry protection while driving. But others doubt it would do more than add a false sense of security. John Harnish, a cabbie who also owns his vehicle, said passengers ride behind the driver and that makes it difficult to see an attack coming. Also, no Cedar Rapids cabs carry any kind of shield separating the driver and passenger compartment.

"Having access to a weapon in time to actually use it would be very hard to do," Harnish said, adding "I would be very afraid somebody could get the weapon from you and usually these robberies take place so quick don't have time to take a gun and use it."

Harnish also said it's very likely cab companies would have concerns about liability issues and wouldn't favor letting drivers arm themselves while on the job. Even if the city council approved the change, cab companies could impose their own work rules prohibiting weapons.

No Cedar Rapids cab company owner returned a call on Monday to comment about the proposed rule change and the possibility the city could allow drivers to go armed if properly licensed.