Wisconsin’s Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued an advisory memo to prosecutors and police departments across his state saying the mere act of having a gun (open carry) does not necessarily warrant a charge of disorderly conduct.
Van Hollen’s memo was the result of an earlier case that saw a backyard tree planter in a suburb of Milwaukee taken down and charged with disorderly conduct for the simple fact that he had a holstered gun strapped to his side.
The memo wasn’t very definitive, saying, “The Department of Justice believes that mere open carry of a firearm, absent additional facts and circumstances, should not result in a disorderly conduct charge,” and citing the state constitutional right to bear arms, Van Hollen still believes that a person who “brandishes a handgun in public” may lose “constitutional protection.” And he said in an interview that still, the act of carrying a gun in public is in itself causing disorder.
Oregon, Wisconsin Police Chief Doug Pettit said the memo didn’t really provide direction for police, “I don’t know if the memo clarifies anything, other than it’s not automatic disorderly conduct charge.” Pettit added that like everything else these days, he would have to use discretion. I recommend to Chief Pettit a good reading and understanding of the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights.
Van Hollen’s memo cited case precedent advising that the police can approach and question anyone open carrying, and as along as the person remains “free to walk away, there has been no intrusion on liberty.”
But Milwaukee Chief of Police Ed Flynn is refusing to abide by the recommendations of the memo with a rather arrogant and condescending tone:
My message to my troops is if you see anybody carrying a gun on the streets of Milwaukee, we’ll put them on the ground, take the gun away, and then decide whether you have a right to carry it. Maybe I’ll end up with a protest of cowboys. In the meantime, I’ve got serious offenders with access to handguns. It’s irresponsible to send a message to them that if they just carry it openly no one can bother them.
"My troops"? They're police officers.
"Decide whether you have a right to carry it"? Ever heard of due process?
For someone who is supposed to uphold the law, even have a dedication to the law, by totally disregarding that law and infringing on the rights of others to keep and bear arms under the fear of being taken down, Chief Flynn exhibits a certain tyrannical and totalitarian approach, out of line with the Constitution. By defying the law, that’s what Chief Flynn is doing, he breaks it. His advice if put into practice is unconstitutional. It is he who is operating outside the law, by imposing his own rule on others.
The matter of open carry should not be a contentious one. And indeed, in the history of this country it has only become so in modern times.
Objectively, someone carrying a gun is not causing a disorder; this would only be in the eyes of the beholder, the mindset of each individual or of society as a whole who have had their sensibilities manipulated. Usually this happens in societies where limitations and restrictions replace liberties and freedoms, toward a particular goal.