I just returned from moderating a panel on high-speed rail in Washington, D.C., where eager engineers, suppliers and consultants from around the world gathered to talk about the future of high-speed rail in America. Remembering the first conference of this kind that I'd ever attended, some 11 years ago, I joked that someday  I'd come to another one via an actual high-speed train, not  Amtrak. But for the purpose, Amtrak did just fine in getting me there.

I also joked "Ten years ago, you'd be considered madmen. Now, you're considered visionaries." But it seems the madmen in relation to rail lurk elsewhere in D.C.  A bipartisan group of Senators are demanding that  Amtrak comply with a rider in the Senate transportation bill that demands it allow passengers to bring guns onto the trains by April.

Amtrak says it can't comply by the April deadline -- not, mind you, that it won't comply at all.  Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker's spokesperson says that Amtrak "refuses at its own peril" and implies that it's defying a "pro-gun Congress."

Since when did being pro-gun also mean being anti-mass transit?

By the way, the House has a stand-alone amendment to allow guns on trains -- without jeoparding the overall transportation funding.

Amtrak argues that it would need to implement security measures to accommodate the guns. That seems reasonable: We wouldn't want passengers getting on planes without screening, would we? (Heck, we can't even carry toothpaste). 

Is it really so important that guns be allowed on the trains by April -- so much so as to refuse Amtrak the $1 billion it would need from this bill? Are people making special plans for tax time?

Whether one is pro-gun or pro-gun control is beside this particular point. Why are we mashing one issue into another?  With a Congress like this, how are we ever really going to have a realistic stab at making high-speed rail work?  People are getting all up in arms in the wrong place.