Great read, thanks for the post.
Gun-toting Citizens take advantage of state’s open carry law
WRITTEN BY JEREMY OTT
THURSDAY, 21 OCTOBER 2010 12:34
You're at your local coffee shop when five non-uniformed guys walk up to the counter with handguns strapped to their waists.
Take cover and pray.
Thank James Madison as father of the Bill of Rights, which includes the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, affirming the right of citizens to keep and bear arms; then shake hands with the armed quintet on your way out.
The correct answer really depends on your attitude to guns. While many might choose the first two options, or both, gun advocates pick No. 3 because, they will tell you, strapping on a weapon is simply exercising a Constitutional right.
"People ask, 'Why do you carry a gun? Are you being threatened?'" said Bobby Gleason, 53, of New Holstein. "That ain't why I carry it. I carry it because it's my Constitutional right."
Gleason goes out into the world each day strapped with either a 9 mm, .45 or .357 handgun, "depending on how I feel that day," he said.
Gleason is a Racine native who has been around guns all his life.
"I was brought up with guns. My dad was a hunter and fisher, you grow up with them and learn to respect them," he said.
He also spends time in Arizona, where guns are abundant and citizens are free to carry guns openly or concealed, without a permit.
"Everybody carries in Arizona," he said. "To me, it knocks the crime rate right down to nothing."
Gleason is well known to the New Holstein Police Department due to people calling to report an armed man in their community.
"We've had citizens calling with concerns, more than one call. I'd say in the last two months we may have gotten a half-dozen calls," said New Holstein Police Chief Brian Reedy. "We're taking the public's concerns and checking into it, but there's nothing he's doing wrong."
Gleason doesn't begrudge the folks who call the police about him. Going into public armed is not just an exercise of his rights, but of all our rights, he says. He sees the act of wearing a gun as an educational tool for the many who are ignorant of their rights.
"Hundreds of thousands of people just don't understand it's your Constitutional right," he said. "A Constitutional right not exercised is a Constitutional right lost."
Strict constructionists of the U.S. Constitution maintain U.S. citizens have had the right to carry arms since the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791, but that ignores the rights of states to create their own gun laws.
Wisconsin joined the growing number of "open carry" states in 1998 when voters approved – 79% to 21% – a Constitutional amendment mirroring the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.
Still, there was confusion across the state about how law enforcement should react to gun-toting citizens. Some gun wearers found themselves facing charges such as disorderly conduct when confronted by police.
That mostly changed on April 20, 2009, when state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued an advisory memorandum to the 72 county district attorney offices around the state that clarified the issue once and for all. The memo said, in essence, anyone with the legal right to openly carry a handgun in Wisconsin should be able to do so without being hassled or charged by local police.
Most places got the memo. Some did not and lawsuits resulted, such as the $10,000 awarded earlier this year to a Racine man who was arrested on the porch of his own home after police driving past noticed he was wearing a weapon in a holster. The man refused to answer questions – as he is allowed to do according to the state Constitution – and was arrested for obstructing justice.
"I've carried literally to thousands and thousands of places in the year and a half since the attorney general's memo, and nobody's ever called the police, at least not that I know of," said Nik Clark of New Berlin. "We kind of chuckle to ourselves amongst the group. We've got thousands of members across the state and most of them open carry on a daily basis. Ninety percent of the time, no one notices or no one calls police."
and thousands of places in the year and a half since the attorney general's memo, and nobody's ever called the police, at least not that I know of," said Nik Clark of New Berlin. "We kind of chuckle to ourselves amongst the group. We've got thousands of members across the state and most of them open carry on a daily basis. Ninety percent of the time, no one notices or no one calls police."
The group he refers to is Wisconsin Carry, Inc., and Clark is its chairman. The rapidly growing advocacy group was incorporated in January of this year to challenge the constitutionality of the law barring open carry within 1,000 feet of schools.
"We've had spectacular growth in less than a year. Every demographic you can think of. Probably a third of our members are women. It's people from all walks of life, old, young, blue collar, white collar and everything in between. Its something very well supported in Wisconsin," Clark said.
The group was a co-plaintiff in the Racine open carry case, and is involved in several other cases, including high profile incidents in Madison and Brookfield.
"It's really driven membership when they see we're actually doing something to protect the right to carry," Clark said. "We want to expand the awareness that open carry is legal in Wisconsin. We have a few rare circumstances where the police seem to not have gotten the memo, like in Madison, where the police have operated outside their authority. Part of our goal is to seek legal remedies."
One legal remedy being sought by WCI is for Krysta Sutterfield, the Milwaukee woman who was arrested on July 4 after attending a Unitarian church service in Brookfield while wearing her 9 mm handgun. A church staff member used a non-emergency number to call Brookfield police about Sutterfield. She was arrested after leaving the church, and was cited for the non-criminal offense of having a loaded gun in her car.
"Police arrived with guns drawn and pulled her from car. They had no legal authority to do that and that's why we filed the lawsuit against Brookfield," Clark said.
Grant him a point on that one, but why would anyone in their right mind pack a gun in church?
"In 2005 there was a mass shooting at a church in Brookfield. You can say, who needs a gun in church, but in 2005 there were eight people dead because they couldn't defend themselves," Clark said.
OK, but is it not the height of paranoia to assume your life is going to be threatened to the point where you are going to arm yourself to go to church?
"Am I paranoid about a fire because I have a fire extinguisher in my house? No, I'm just prepared," Clark said. "It really is a safety measure for law abiding citizens. People who carry in self defense don't live in fear. They sleep better at night and are more comfortable when they're out and about."
Clark and other open carry advocates often point to the 1998 Constitutional amendment and its 79% support as justification for their decision to open carry, but you could argue that some in the 79% bracket were voting philosophically in support of the American way of life, rather than in support of the idea that everyone and their neighbor start packing heat.
And those who did not support the Constitutional amendment? Clark said they have been written off as untouchable by he WCI message.
"We call them the 21 percenters," he said. "I think those 21 percenters, it really doesn't matter what you do. They're just kind of antigun and it doesn't seem they're going to change their minds."
My Brother. I taught him well!
Last edited by J.Gleason; 10-21-2010 at 02:32 PM.
Great read, thanks for the post.
Nice. I love the points that Nik made about how most people don't even notice the firearm, that it's akin to being prepared by having a fire extinguisher, and that some people are just anti-gun. Nice article.
Don't forget to hit the poll on the right side of the article.
good article. thanks for posting it.
I voted in the poll. The question is: Are you comfortable with citizens carrying guns?
results as of my vote:
79% definitely yes
11% doesn't bother them
2% absolutely not
with numbers like those we should get constitutional carry tomorrow lol
I had to change my signature because you know who got upset about it.
thankfully they didn't poll, nor take into account my anti-gun inlaws. i alone must bear their disapproval and wrath, until they fall victim of a crime, then i will have miraculously found new allies.