A Wisconsin truck driver, Guy A. Smith, was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. The handgun was on the floor of his truck. It was visible to an outside camera. Smith made no attempt to hide the firearm when the truck was inspected by a Wisconsin state trooper, who proceeded to arrest him for carrying a concealed firearm, illegally.
While open carry has always been legal in Wisconsin, case law from 2003 determined that carrying a loaded handgun concealed beneath a seat or in a glove compartment makes it a concealed firearm. This in spite of the passage of the strong protection for the right to bear arms in Wisconsin’s constitution.
In 1998, 74 percent of Wisconsin voters affirmed constitutional carry in a state referendum amending the state’s constitution. The amendment, which created Article I, Section 25, is very clear. From Article I Section 25:
The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.
The composition of the Wisconsin supreme court has been changed since 2003. Left-leaning justices who dominated the court have been voted out. Originalists and textualists have been voted in. A case such as that of Mr. Smith could well have a different outcome.
In a recent case on carry on city buses, the court ruled that local governments may not ban the carry of weapons on public transit. Unfortunately, the defense didn’t bring up the constitutionality of the city regulation itself. As part of the shall issue law passed in Wisconsin in 2011, the legislature changed the law concerning carrying in vehicles.
The issue is whether you can drive with a loaded handgun within reach, even without having a concealed carry permit.
Guy A. Smith, a 52-year-old commercial truck driver from Merrill, believes, as does a gun rights organization, that you can. That’s why he said he made no effort to hide his revolver when inspectors entered his big rig at a weigh station in Pleasant Prairie in June.
Inspectors saw it on the floor of his cab via an overhead camera, then approached Smith and cited him for carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor, and seized his gun.
Smith’s case was set for a jury trial Monday, but the prosecutor seemed ambushed by the defense claim that a different Wisconsin law seems to specifically allow Smith’s actions. The statute on transport of weapons says,
” … no person may place, possess, or transport a firearm, bow, or crossbow in or on a vehicle, unless one of the following applies: 1. The firearm is unloaded or is a handgun.”
At the time of passage, many thought the change applied to open carry. Several changes in the law clarified that open carry is legal, doesn’t constitute “disorderly conduct” and constitutes a protected activity.
It seems sensible that open carry in a vehicle would be protected by law.
Edit: Given the changes in the law and the questions regarding interpretation, Assistant District Attorney Thomas Binger may appeal the Judge’s ruling on the law or on procedure.
If there is no appeal on the substance of the law, I expect a Wisconsin Jury to find Smith to be not guilty. If Smith is found to be guilty, Wisconsin Carry will likely appeal the verdict.
ADA Binger has already publicly declared that he doesn’t read the law the way it was written. He reckons the law would nullify Wisconsin’s concealed carry law, Act 35. The judge corrected Binger, saying it would only nullify the statute in cars.
Wisconsin Carry is funding Mr. Smith’s defense in the case.
©2017 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included. Gun Watch