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Thread: La Crosse County Sheriff Responds to Open Carry Letter

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    Founder's Club Member bnhcomputing's Avatar
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    I sent the following theLa Crosse County Sheriff. What follows is our email exchange.
    Dear Sheriff Helgeson:

    As you are aware, Wisconsin's constitution grants the people the constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose. Both the State Supreme Court and Governor Doyle have stated that as concealed carry is currently illegal in Wisconsin, open carry is the only means available to the citizens as a way of exercising this right.

    I am writing you directly for clarification concerning enforcement as it pertains to Wisconsin's constitutional right to bear arms, instead of relying on the rumor mill.

    My concern is specifically how the department will respond should they receive a "man with a gun" call should an uninformed citizen contact your department regarding me exercising my right to bear arms. I understand how such a call must be investigated, but I am looking for some assurance that I would not be charged with a crime, such as disorderly conduct, having violated no law.

    Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and I look forward to your reply.
    Sheriff Replied:

    Thank you for your email. I certainly understand your concerns regarding exercising your constitutional rights with open carry. In order to give you the most accurate information and explanation possible, I have requested an opinion from La Crosse County District Attorney Tim Gruenke. It likely will take some time before he responds, but I certainly will advise you as soon as he does.

    If we our dispatched to a call regarding a firearm, our Deputies are trained to respond in a tactically safe manner for the safety of everyone. The response is dependent on the scenario and each scenario is different. I can assure you I do believe citizens have the right to exercise their constitutional freedoms. One of the problems is I have no ability to control how the public perceives their observations of an event. For example, a home owner exercising his legal right to open carry on his property may result in a 911 call by the public of a suspicious person prowling while armed with a handgun outside a residence.
    I then sent a follow-up email:
    Having had opportunity to further consider your email, there is a question that I feel you can address regarding open carry.

    Per your email, should the department receive a call from a concerned citizen, the department will respond in a tactically safe manner. My question is more about what happens once the deputies determine that they are dealing with a law-abiding individual simply exercising their constitutional right. Will the deputies take the citizen into custody, or send the individual on their way and then visit the caller to educate them that the individual was doing nothing illegal?



    Again, thank you for your time and consideration in this matter and I look forward to your reply.

    Received the following:

    If a law abiding citizen is simply legally exercising their constitutional rights, they will not be arrested or charged with a crime, as no crime has been committed. I believe education of the public is very important in regard to open carry. It would also be helpful if a citizen legally planning to open carry would contact our Department. That would allow the patrol deputies to be aware of the situation in the event there citizen complaints. It would also provide for a safer response, if a response to the complaint is necessary. It is possible the complainant could simply be advised of the circumstances by phone. Obviously notification of law enforcement of not required, but it would be very helpful.
    Now I would welcome input from the members here.

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    He wants you to notify him before you exercise a right?

    I have a better idea... why doesn't he gather the deputies together and inform them that OC is not a crime and that no one is allowed to be detained unless they have RAS that a crime has occurred?

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    Ohio Patriot wrote:
    He wants you to notify him before you exercise a right?

    I have a better idea... why doesn't he gather the deputies together and inform them that OC is not a crime and that no one is allowed to be detained unless they have RAS that a crime has occurred?
    all i can say is ditto. inform him FIRST?.......i don't remember reading in the constitution we had to inform anyone of anything lol

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    Inform? Fine. Tell him this:

    "I plan on OC'ing every day. And so are all of my friends."

    In all seriousness, we should never get in the habit of informinglaw enfocementbefore we choose to exercise an inalienable right.



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    warlockmatized wrote:
    Ohio Patriot wrote:
    He wants you to notify him before you exercise a right?

    I have a better idea... why doesn't he gather the deputies together and inform them that OC is not a crime and that no one is allowed to be detained unless they have RAS that a crime has occurred?
    all i can say is ditto. inform him FIRST?.......i don't remember reading in the constitution we had to inform anyone of anything lol
    Guys, come'on.

    What he IS saying is that it would be better to contact them so that they are aware of you OCing and the department doesn't have to "waste" UNNECESSARY resources when they recieve a "MWAG" call.

    They WILL then be aware of you and be able to state to the caller that you are know to them and that you are "OK".

    I did one time call the local dispatch when I was about to go out running and I told them the route so that they would not have to waste their time IF they recived a "MWAG" call. It appears to me that they appreciated that

    Just my .40



    TJ

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    bhncomputing,

    I believe that this Sheriff is ok and if you reply back again, continue to be respectful as you have been. I would simple ask him if he is going to inform his officers, as stated above, that OC is legal and you might even help him out by giving him some guidance...statue, case law..etc.

    Or you can tell them all to go to hell and let the courts and your wallet settle it.

    I would like to see the DA response to his questions.


    Be safe,

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    With all due respect, UTOC, it is my opinion that we need to train these departments to not respond to every MWAG call. Here is the proper way - in my opinion - for a PD or SO to handle it:

    911 Caller: Oh no! There's a man with a gun!
    PD: What is he doing?
    911 Caller: He's eating ice cream with his kids!!
    PD: Is he threatening anyone or causing a disturbance? Is he handling the gun?
    911 Caller: Well... no... the gun is in a holster. It's just that I'm... I'm... I'm scared of guns. Please send someone quickly!
    PD: Ma'am, there is no law against openly carrying a handgun. Does he appear to be doing anything wrong or illegal besides... well... carrying a handgun in a holster?
    911 Caller: Um... well... no?
    PD: Ma'am, we appreciate your call, but unless he threatening someone or causing a disturbance, a service call would not be warranted.

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    With all due respect to out-of-state posters, considering the rarity of and public opinion on open carry in Wisconsin, I would consider this response by a Sheriff to be a very good thing. I also agree that it would be best if education could take place without a peacable gun owner being harrassed, but I also understand the Sheriff's reply due to the rare nature of OC here. I lived in LaCrosse for 5 years and never once saw a non-LEO carrying anywhere in the county; a man with a gun call would be very likely IMHO.

    Oh, and WI has no college carry prohibition; as long as you are not INSIDE a governement building, it is lawful to openly carry. Imagine the hysterics caused by a man walking near or accross a college campus while lawfully armed these days?

    I think the Sheriff is doing a fine job trying to ensure the OP doesn't get hassled while balancing that with a concrete ability to tell any MWAG callers the situation.

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    Ohio Patriot wrote:
    With all due respect, UTOC, it is my opinion that we need to train these departments to not respond to every MWAG call. Here is the proper way - in my opinion - for a PD or SO to handle it:

    911 Caller: Oh no! There's a man with a gun!
    PD: What is he doing?
    911 Caller: He's eating ice cream with his kids!!
    PD: Is he threatening anyone or causing a disturbance? Is he handling the gun?
    911 Caller: Well... no... the gun is in a holster. It's just that I'm... I'm... I'm scared of guns. Please send someone quickly!
    PD: Ma'am, there is no law against openly carrying a handgun. Does he appear to be doing anything wrong or illegal besides... well... carrying a handgun in a holster?
    911 Caller: Um... well... no?
    PD: Ma'am, we appreciate your call, but unless he threatening someone or causing a disturbance, a service call would not be warranted.

    I agree with you 100% in a perfectworld. This is NOT a perfect world. and LEO's are...how should we DELICATELY put it.....hrrrm...NOT.

    I am ABSOLUTELY in TOTAL agreeance with you Ohio Patriot

    TJ


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    Founder's Club Member bnhcomputing's Avatar
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    UTOC-45-44 wrote:
    Ohio Patriot wrote:
    With all due respect, UTOC, it is my opinion that we need to train these departments to not respond to every MWAG call. Here is the proper way - in my opinion - for a PD or SO to handle it:

    911 Caller: Oh no! There's a man with a gun!
    PD: What is he doing?
    911 Caller: He's eating ice cream with his kids!!
    PD: Is he threatening anyone or causing a disturbance? Is he handling the gun?
    911 Caller: Well... no... the gun is in a holster. It's just that I'm... I'm... I'm scared of guns. Please send someone quickly!
    PD: Ma'am, there is no law against openly carrying a handgun. Does he appear to be doing anything wrong or illegal besides... well... carrying a handgun in a holster?
    911 Caller: Um... well... no?
    PD: Ma'am, we appreciate your call, but unless he threatening someone or causing a disturbance, a service call would not be warranted.

    I agree with you 100% in a perfectworld. This is NOT a perfect world. and LEO's are...how should we DELICATELY put it.....hrrrm...NOT.

    I am ABSOLUTELY in TOTAL agreeance with you Ohio Patriot

    TJ
    I agree with you 100%, in a perfect world, but as you point out it is NOT a perfect world. Consider if someone had called LEO about the Virginia Tech shooter, or the NW University shooter, hours before the incident. If they hadn't broken any law at that time, officers wouldn't respond. A failure of this type would definitely give the ANTI-Gun movement ALL the ammunition they needed. I can here it now:



    --------------------------------------------------------

    Hypothetical anti-gun press release:

    Had officers been able to respond, they might have prevented this tragedy, but their hands are tied. Unless someone actually breaks the law, they CANNOT respond. Therefore I urge all citizens to act now to change the law and grant the police MORE power in these situations.



    End Hypothetical…

    --------------------------------------------------------



    They would use the same argument that is being used right now favoring allowing students to carry, "well maybe an armed student…." The anti's can use "well maybe if the officer had responded…"



    For my $ .02 I say I would rather have an educated public AND an educated law enforcement body. In that way, LEO can/will respond, as they should. LEO can quickly determine there is no threat to public safety, and both citizens and LEO can move on.



    It's the same as a report about screaming coming from an apartment/house. I want LEO to respond. Once they determine the TV was simply too loud, they will go on their way. Is this a FEAR response? YES, but FEAR is what drives both sides. We carry for FEAR we will be attacked and the knowledge that LEO will not be there to protect us. The anti's FEAR someone with a gun will harm them either intentionally or by accident. Both fears are not unfounded.



    When you come right down to it, FEAR is why we carry, FEAR is why "they" don't want us to carry, and FEAR is why LEO must respond. All we can hope for is to better educate both LEO and the public in an attempt to calm that fear, but we shall never overcome it.

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    Point him to Florida v. J.L. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_v._J.L.):

    "On October 13, 1995 Miami-Dade Police received an anonymous tip that a young black male (J.L.) was at a bus stop carrying a pistol. Police officers went to the bus stop and identified J.L. An officer frisked him and seized the pistol from his pocket. J.L. moved to suppress the gun evidence as the fruit of an unlawful search under the theory that an anonymous tip is not enough evidence to merit a search and seizure."

    "The U.S. Supreme Court held in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that the search was unjustified. To justify the search, the police needed to verify the credibility of the informant and the information given or the tip needed to be corroborated with some sort of unusual conduct by the suspect that would reasonably lead an officer to conclude that criminal activity could be afoot."

    In essence, the mere carrying of a pistol does not justify a stop-and-frisk/Terry stop. It's a Supreme Court decision, it has country-wide precedence and its a huge case that works in favor of Open Carry.

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    Wynder wrote:
    Point him to Florida v. J.L. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_v._J.L.):

    "On October 13, 1995 Miami-Dade Police received an anonymous tip that a young black male (J.L.) was at a bus stop carrying a pistol. Police officers went to the bus stop and identified J.L. An officer frisked him and seized the pistol from his pocket. J.L. moved to suppress the gun evidence as the fruit of an unlawful search under the theory that an anonymous tip is not enough evidence to merit a search and seizure."

    "The U.S. Supreme Court held in a unanimous opinion by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that the search was unjustified. To justify the search, the police needed to verify the credibility of the informant and the information given or the tip needed to be corroborated with some sort of unusual conduct by the suspect that would reasonably lead an officer to conclude that criminal activity could be afoot."

    In essence, the mere carrying of a pistol does not justify a stop-and-frisk/Terry stop. It's a Supreme Court decision, it has country-wide precedence and its a huge case that works in favor of Open Carry.
    I don't know, that seems to me to be a bit of wishful thinking and self-serving reinterpretation of that ruling. The court said that an "anonymous tip" is not sufficient to justify a stop. PERIOD. To change that to "carrying a pistol does not justify a stop-and-frisk" is certainly making an entirely different statement and putting words into the "court's mouth." If the individual in the above case had been stopped because of an anonymous tip that he was carrying drugs, and the court made the same ruling-- i.e.,that the stop-and-frisk was not justified-- you wouldn't then conclude that thepolice aren't justified in stopping a man with drugs, would you?
    A. Gold

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    Shotgun wrote:
    I don't know, that seems to me to be a bit of wishful thinking and self-serving reinterpretation of that ruling. The court said that an "anonymous tip" is not sufficient to justify a stop. PERIOD. To change that to "carrying a pistol does not justify a stop-and-frisk" is certainly making an entirely different statement and putting words into the "court's mouth." If the individual in the above case had been stopped because of an anonymous tip that he was carrying drugs, and the court made the same ruling-- i.e.,that the stop-and-frisk was not justified...
    You missed the, "or the tip needed to be corroborated with some sort of unusual conduct by the suspect that would reasonably lead an officer to conclude that criminal activity could be afoot."

    you wouldn't then conclude that the police aren't justified in stopping a man with drugs, would you?
    What's the circumstance? An anonymous call? No, they wouldn't be justified without corroboration... they can certainly attempt an voluntary encounter, but if he's not otherwise acting in a manner that would suggest he's engaging in criminal activity, he's under the protection of the Fourth Amendment.

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    Here's a piece of the actual ruling:

    An anonymous tip that a person is carrying a gun is not, without more, sufficient to justify a police officer's stop and frisk of that person. An officer, for the protection of himself and others, may conduct a carefully limited search for weapons in the outer clothing of persons engaged in unusual conduct where, inter alia, the officer reasonably concludes in light of his experience that criminal activity may be afoot and that the persons in question may be armed and presently dangerous. Terry v. Ohio, 392 U. S. 1, 30.
    The first sentence says that an anonymous tip isn't enough to warrant a stop and frisk.

    The second sentence says that police can't stop and frisk a person for being suspected of simply carrying a weapon unless he believes criminal activity is afoot. Even though they're releated, I believe they can stand on their own and as much as been decided by several state Supreme Courts.

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    Wynder wrote:
    Shotgun wrote:
    I don't know, that seems to me to be a bit of wishful thinking and self-serving reinterpretation of that ruling. The court said that an "anonymous tip" is not sufficient to justify a stop. PERIOD. To change that to "carrying a pistol does not justify a stop-and-frisk" is certainly making an entirely different statement and putting words into the "court's mouth." If the individual in the above case had been stopped because of an anonymous tip that he was carrying drugs, and the court made the same ruling-- i.e.,that the stop-and-frisk was not justified...
    You missed the, "or the tip needed to be corroborated with some sort of unusual conduct by the suspect that would reasonably lead an officer to conclude that criminal activity could be afoot."

    you wouldn't then conclude that the police aren't justified in stopping a man with drugs, would you?
    What's the circumstance? An anonymous call? No, they wouldn't be justified without corroboration... they can certainly attempt an voluntary encounter, but if he's not otherwise acting in a manner that would suggest he's engaging in criminal activity, he's under the protection of the Fourth Amendment.
    No, I didn't miss a thing. Clearly the court is implying that had the tip been corroborated a stop may have been justified.

    You have used Florida v J.L. to claim that the court said "the mere carrying a pistol does not justify a stop and frisk." It says no such thing. Terry is an entirely different decision and if you want to argue that TERRY can be interepreted to mean that "mere carrying a pistol" does not justify a stop, then go ahead. I would tend to agree with you, but we still have the many documented caseson opencarry.org of people being stopped, detained and searched that demonstrate that this interpretation is far from universal.
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    Rick Finsta wrote:

    Oh, and WI has no college carry prohibition; as long as you are not INSIDE a governement building, it is lawful to openly carry. Imagine the hysterics caused by a man walking near or accross a college campus while lawfully armed these days?

    No, it doesn't, but if you are associated with the university in any way you will likely be fired/expelled (code of conduct on campus).

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    Do you think they'd revoke my diploma? :?:P
    A. Gold

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    Shotgun wrote:
    Do you think they'd revoke my diploma? :?:P

    I dunno, they might try. And probably charge you for the money they spent on the new text messaging program when they alert the campus about an armed madman.



    My point is, you could carry on campus, but you can't go into the buildings, and the people who probably need to carry regularly can't. Its like general OCing in Wisconsin. You can technically do it, but it seems like things are not how the should be, ie we shouldn't have to worry about a DC, or stupid invisible lines the the ones around campuses.

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    My devious mind likes to ponder carrying in the UW-Madison Memorial Union.... which, I believe, is not owned by the state, but by a non-profit organization.

    (Although I'd recommend verifying this belief BEFORE acting.)
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    Pointman wrote:
    bnhcomputing wrote:
    It would also be helpful if a citizen legally planning to open carry would contact our Department. That would allow the patrol deputies to be aware of the situation in the event there citizen complaints.
    In WI, that's excellent. Call them every time you're going anywhere, and several times along the way when you'll be in a new area you didn't previously intend to visit. (Don't call to be obnoxious, just to keep them posted.) The $5 in phone charges are way cheaper than 30 detentions, and after a while they'll get sick of hearing from you and ask you to stop calling. You'll have avoided one or more possible arrests AND educated an entire police force. If two of your friends did the same, they'd tire of the courtesy calls that much sooner.
    Yes, it's a case of "careful what you wish for...."


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    I thought the same thing about some of the summer festivals. As long as you don't go into an area where a temporary liquor license has been issued, you should be fine. I thought I remembered drinking in the UW-Madison student union. I'm probably wrong on that - maybe it was coffee or something - I just remember being intoxicated and watching a band play...

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    Pointman wrote:
    bnhcomputing wrote:
    It would also be helpful if a citizen legally planning to open carry would contact our Department. That would allow the patrol deputies to be aware of the situation in the event there citizen complaints.
    In WI, that's excellent. Call them every time you're going anywhere, and several times along the way when you'll be in a new area you didn't previously intend to visit. (Don't call to be obnoxious, just to keep them posted.) The $5 in phone charges are way cheaper than 30 detentions, and after a while they'll get sick of hearing from you and ask you to stop calling. You'll have avoided one or more possible arrests AND educated an entire police force. If two of your friends did the same, they'd tire of the courtesy calls that much sooner.
    Pointman:

    I was waiting/hoping you would chime in on this one. I also thought this was a GOOD response compared to some others I’v read on here. I would like to send a follow up email to the sheriff thanking him for his support of our constitutional rights, just thought I would post our exchange here first, and get some feedback.


    I am not quite ready to carry in a crowd (mall, etc.) yet, as I need to take a good personal protection class and get training in weapons retention first, but when out walking the various bike trails and such in our area, I now feel I have SOME support from LEO. We've had some bear, bobcat, and yote issues in our area, so carrying for security and defense are both valid.




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    bnhcomputing wrote:
    I am not quite ready to carry in a crowd (mall, etc.) yet, as I need to take a good personal protection class and get training in weapons retention first, but when out walking the various bike trails and such in our area, I now feel I have SOME support from LEO.
    I think the key in Wisconsin is to be "reasonable" when openly carrying. The police aren't used to open carry, and a man-with-a-gun call usually involves something illegal. OCing a stainless .44 magnum in a mall isn't going to be a positive experience.

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    Bottom line, all the guy said is "it would be helpful". People, he didn't say you must call the police department to get permission. Though I have to admit Pointmans suggestion is also a great one.

    OK. This is great. An LEO who gets it. Whenver I am in La Crosse I WILL OC.

    edit: added pointman comment

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