Wisconsin gun owners are one-up on municipal gun prohibitionists thanks to a lawsuit filed by Wisconsin Carry, Inc. that was decided Tuesday by the state Supreme Court, which ruled that the City of Madison’s Metro Transit agency cannot prohibit passengers from carrying firearms on city buses.
In a 5-2 ruling, with Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson dissenting, the state high court put teeth into Act 35, the state’s preemption statute. The ruling and dissent may be read here.
“There is no room in the Concealed-Carry Statute for a municipality to define ‘anywhere’ as something other than the comprehensive expanse it was meant to be,” wrote Justice Daniel Kelly for the majority. “If there were such room, Wisconsin’s municipalities could instantly create the patchwork landscape the text of the Concealed-Carry Statute indicates the legislature meant to avoid.”
According to the Wisconsin State Journal, Madison Mayor Paul Soglin plans to ask the state Legislature to amend the law so municipalities can adopt such prohibitions. Soglin, a Chicago-born Democrat, was quoted arguing, “We see no reason why it should not be permissible under the Constitution for us to do something incredibly reasonable.”
But gun rights advocates might consider such a move incredibly unreasonable. Legally-armed citizens who lack other forms of transportation depend upon local transit to get around, and – as Second Amendment activists are fond of saying – should not leave their self-defense rights at the front door of their homes.
The Wisconsin Carry position got some support from state Attorney General Brad Schimel, who filed an amicus brief “siding with the gun group,” according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Schimel and Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin contended that the bus ban conflicted with and essentially defeated the purpose of the state statute, the newspaper explained.
Tuesday’s ruling reinforces the argument that state preemption statutes are necessary to prevent a patchwork of conflicting gun laws. Gun control proponents dislike such statutes for that very reason.
This case is reminiscent of a challenge of Washington State’s preemption law seven years ago by the City of Seattle, which tried to ban firearms in city park facilities by regulation rather than an ordinance.
That case, Chan v. City of Seattle, was won at the trial court and unanimously at the state Court of Appeals when it was challenged by the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors and five individual citizens. When the city sought review by the state Supreme Court, it was turned down.