Part 2 Arming DC Cabbies

Larry Pratt

The blatantly unconstitutional views of the gun-grabbers in the District of Columbia are so fanatically anti-self-defense that they oppose the right of cab drivers to keep and bear arms — even though this is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country.

In early May of 2000, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) issued a press release quoting the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Alexis M. Herman, as saying: “Taxi drivers are 60 times more likely than other workers to be murdered on the job.” She said that the number of assaults and homicides against taxi drivers borders on being an “epidemic.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 510 cab drivers were murdered on the job between 1992-1998. Taxi drivers are also victim to more violent assaults (184 per 1,000 workers) than any other occupation with the exception of police (306 per 1,000) and private security guards (218 per 1,000).

A story in the Washington Post (11/23/99) reports that one 30-year veteran cab driver was robbed 13 times in 12 years. In this story, DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey says there were 131 crimes against cabbies in 1999, including 66 robberies, eight car thefts and one murder. Here’s just some of what has happened to DC and other cabbies in recent years:

* In mid-November of 1999, the Washington Post reported that Larry Barnes, a 73 year-old veteran cab driver, was stabbed to death. Barnes, who drove a cab for 46 years, had five children and 23 grandchildren. This same Post story says that this same week another cabbie was recovering after being stabbed and robbed by a passenger with a weapon. Two months earlier, in August, another taxi driver was paralyzed after being shot once in the head during an apparent robbery attempt.

* An undated but recent story on the website reports one DC cab driver as saying he’s been robbed at knife and/or gunpoint seven times with his attacker being caught only once. Another cabbie tells how he dropped two females off at a house where they went in, supposedly, to get money for the ride. When they returned with a man who pointed a gun at him, they were allowed to ride free.

* In an interview, Nathan Price, a former lobbyist for DC cabbies who has driven a taxi for 31 years, says he has been robbed at gunpoint. He says cab drivers should be allowed to have handguns for self-defense, particularly those who drive at night because the law requires cabbies to pick up all fares and take them to any section of the Nation’s capitol. Price says that if taxi drivers get in trouble the police “may or may not come.” He adds that when he started driving a cab, cops walked a beat so it was easy to find a cop. This, however, is no longer true.

* In a presentation to a “Conference On Violence As A Workplace Risk” in Montreal, Canada, in late November of 2001, Barbara Kabrick, representing the International Taxi Driver Safety Council, said, regarding her experience driving a cab:

I had a knife pulled on me, a fare tried to rob me, and a couple of times I got into a scuffle with a passenger…. At the company I worked for…. If a driver came in bloody, he was asked if he was going home or just clean up and go back out on the job. If the answer was go home, he was reminded that he would be charged for the time missed….

Assaulting a cab driver carries little risk to the assailant. First, there is a very good chance it won’t be reported to the police, and if it is reported, there’s very little chance of the perpetrator getting caught and if he is caught and disputes the allegation, there is a very good chance the cab driver won’t be believed. I talked to a cab driver in Kansas City who said that he no longer reports any assaults or even robberies. The first time he was assaulted and robbed, he called the police…. When the officer got there, he saw that the cab was parked in a ‘no parking’ zone. So, the driver was arrested and the cab was towed away.

* In a mid-July, 2001, article about cab driver safety titled “Years Of Living Dangerously,” Kristin Kloberdanz of Consumer Health Interactive quotes James Szekely Sr. as saying this about one fare he picked up in Tampa, Florida: “We talked normal guy talk….[when it came time to pay] all of a sudden, he pulled out a knife and just slit my throat and stabbed me twice in the back.”

Szekely, who at the time headed a national safety council for cabbies, adds: “The ‘nice’ criminals will lock the cabbie in the trunk while they make their getaway. We have had drivers who have spent several days in the trunk of their car in some field, unable to attract attention, and they almost died from suffocation and dehydration.”

* Another Washington Post story (5/6/2001), headlined “For Driver Of A Taxi, Each Night Is A Danger,” says, regarding cabbies in Prince George’s County, Maryland: “It’s hard to find [one] who doesn’t claim to have felt the blade of a knife on his neck or the metal of a gun barrel behind the ear. Day or night, they say, the risks are the same.”

* In his column in the Boston Globe (6/10/1999), Jeff Jacoby says that in the Boston area, during the previous three-and-a-half weeks, 12 cabbies were attacked by armed passengers; all but one were robbed; several were wounded. Jacoby says: “At first the attackers used knives. Then came handguns. This past Monday, a cabbie in Roxbury found himself gazing at the unfriendly end of a sawed-off shotgun.”

* A website maintained by Charles Rathbone, who keeps detailed statistics about attacks on cab drivers, states that since January 1, 1998, the approximate murder rate of cabbies has been 1.03 drivers per week.

Incredibly, despite this kind of violent, and often deadly, crime against cab drivers almost every night and day across our country — including our Nation’s capitol, the anti-self-defense nuts in Washington DC still oppose allowing cabbies to keep and bear arms to defend themselves. This is an outrage.

But, there’s some good news here. At least one courageous lady in Washington DC, Sandra Seegars, a member of the DC Taxicab Commission, is fighting hard for the right of cab drivers to keep and bear arms for self-defense. I’ll be reporting on her commendable efforts in future columns. And I’ll be naming the names of those who oppose her, those who want to continue the disarming of DC cabbies with deadly results.