Madison, WI prosecutors drop charges filed against gun rights activists after open carry incident
Buckeye Firearms Foundation-supported civil rights lawsuit against city alive and well
On Monday, Sept. 27, 2010, Buckeye Firearms Association informed readers about the arrest of five members of Wisconsin Carry Inc., a state firearms rights group in Wisconsin, who were legally open carrying in their local Culvers restaurant when a dreaded "man with a gun" call was made to the local police. We announced an effort by the Buckeye Firearms Foundation to help the Wisconsin five pay for legal fees to fight the charges against them, to which BFF had already committed $2500 in matching funds.
Buckeye Firearms supporters responded immediately. By the end of the following day, more than twice the original goal of $2500 was raised, and on Wednesday Sept. 29 a check for $7,500 was mailed to Wisconsin Carry Inc.
That same day, Wisconsin Carry, Inc filed a Federal lawsuit against the City of Madison and Madison Police Chief Noble Wray. (A copy of this lawsuit is available here.)
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported recently that prosecutors have dismissed disorderly conduct charges issued against the five gun rights activists.
From the article:
"The only disturbance created on that Saturday evening was by a mass of uniformed Madison police officers and squads arriving to investigate law-abiding citizens having dinner," said Christopher Van Wagner, a defense attorney hired by Wisconsin Carry, Inc. to defend the men.
According to Nik Clark, president of the group, the Madison City Attorney's office on Thursday informed Wagner and Wisconsin Carry of its decision to dismiss the citations against all five men.
While the bogus charges against these men have been dropped, our friends at Wisconsin Carry Inc. are pleased to report that their civil rights lawsuit is still alive and well.
Text from a Wisconsin Carry Inc. press release announcing the lawsuit follows:
The City of Madison may not deny individuals the right to carry handguns in nonsensitive places, deprive individuals of the right to carry handguns in an arbitrary and capricious manner, or enforce its laws, customs and practices through its police department or impose regulations on the right to carry handguns that are inconsistent with the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 25 of the Wisconsin Constitution.
On Saturday, September 18, 2010, five (5) members of WCI met for dinner at a Culvers Restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin. Each of these individuals was openly carrying a handgun when they arrived at the restaurant, entered the restaurant and ordered and ate their meals. At or about the time that the WCI members finished their meal and left the restaurant, a woman in her car observed them openly carrying handguns and called 911 to report it to the City of Madison Police Department. The 911 caller informed the dispatcher that she didn't know if it was an emergency, the men were doing nothing wrong and appeared totally relaxed, weren't threatening anyone and the restaurant was full of people but they each had sidearms and she didn't know if that was legal.
Upon being informed by the 911 dispatcher that open-carry is legal the woman stated "then there is no problem and its not an emergency". The dispatcher then suggests that if the woman is concerned or disturbed then it becomes a problem and the woman says "no they weren't threatening anybody or acting threatening". When the dispatcher informs the caller they are sending officers she says "well I feel bad then because they weren't doing anything wrong"
Listen to the 911 call here:
As these WCI members left the restaurant, they were accosted by eight (8) City of Madison police officers, who demanded that they produce identification, and threatened that if they did not do so, they would be arrested. From the time that these WCI members arrived at the restaurant up to and including the time that the police officers confronted them and demanded that they produce identification or face arrest, none of the WCI members violated any law, nor were they involved in any violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly conduct, nor did they through their conduct cause or provoke any disturbance.
Wisconsin law does not allow officers to arrest for merely refusing to provide ID. 2 days later, Madison Police admitted the error in arresting and charging our members with obstruction, rescinded those tickets and instead, despite there being no disturbance, and no laws broken, issued disorderly conduct charges to all 5 of our members.
The Madison Police Department also issued a press release which relayed a department procedure which would violate the rights of law-abiding open-carriers who would choose to go legally armed for self-defense in Madison. The press release can be read here:
By arresting our members without cause and issuing a press release detailing a policy of violating the rights of other law-abiding open-carriers who should choose to carry in Madison, Wisconsin Carry immediately took action to file a lawsuit to prevent this chilling effect on the right to Carry in Madison. We look forward to the precedent this lawsuit will set.
Those who work, live, or travel to Madison are entitled to the same rights as the rest of the state. Wisconsin has a state and federal constitutionally guaranteed right to carry. Open-carry is the only legal way to carry in this state. Wisconsin's attorney general verified the legality of open-carry in a memo to all police chiefs and district attorney's in 2009. The City of Madison may not deny individuals the right to carry handguns in nonsensitive places, deprive individuals of the right to carry handguns in an arbitrary and capricious manner, or enforce its laws, customs and practices through its police department or impose regulations on the right to carry handguns that are inconsistent with the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, § 25 of the Wisconsin Constitution.
The financial support from across the country extended to Wisconsin Carry which allows us the resources to file this lawsuit has been exceptional. On behalf of WCI, our members, and freedom minded Wisconsinites who embrace the right to carry we wish to offer a special thank-you to Buckeye Firearms Foundation.
BFF is a tax-exempt foundation which collected and matched donations from people across the country totaling over $7,500 through there website:
Wisconsin Carry is a non-profit 100% volunteer organization dedicated to the protection and expansion of the right of law abiding Wisconsinites to carry in the manner of their choosing; open carry or concealed carry.
Chairman/President - Wisconsin Carry, Inc.
If you wish to donate to Buckeye Firearms Foundation's general fund for future cases please visit: BuckeyeFirearmsFoundation.org