John Monroe, civil rights attorney
Today civil rights attorney John Monroe filed a federal lawsuit against West Milwaukee and it's police force for gross abuses of power against a man solely because the man was legally carrying a holstered gun. A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.
The complaint alleges that police illegally detained, harassed, and arrested Jesus Gonzales without cause in violation of the federal constitution. Further, the complaint alleges that police unlawfully demanded Jesus Gonzalez' social security number in violation of Section 7 of the Federal Privacy Act, arguably a felony under the Social Security Act at 42 USC 408.
Mr. Gonzalez was never actually tried in court, but the complaint alleges that the police have refused to return the property confiscated from Mr. Gonzalez. OpenCarry.org's co-founder John Pierce, a law student at nearby Hamline University in Minneapolis, MN where open carry is also legal, says that "the police have no more power to confiscate openly carried handguns that they do to confiscate openly carried cell phones."
In Wisconsin, like most states, citizens can openly carry handguns in public without any permit. Recently a Wisconsin judge ruled that mere open carry of holstered handguns is not "disorderly conduct" in Wisconsin.
Forty-eight states allow concealed carry of handguns, but all of these states but Vemont and Alaska require a permit to carry concealed. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle (D) has repeatedly vetoed legislation that would have created a concealed handgun permit program for those who wish to carry their handguns concealed in Wisconsin.
Currently "open carry" is the only option for citizens wishing to carry handguns in Wisconsin. Doyle argued that concealed carry is not necessary because in Wisconsin citizens can already carry handguns on their hip.
In a statement to the Examiner regarding this new lawsuit, Gonzales' attorney John Monroe said:
"Despite the fact that the governor and multiple other state officials have declared that open carry is not illegal, some law enforcement officers continue to deprive Wisconsin citizens of their constitutional rights by harassing them for engaging in this perfectly lawful behavior."
Civil rights organizers, The Lakeland Times' Richard Moore, and groups like OpenCarry.org have previously warned Wisconsin officials that lawsuits would follow if the unlawful police intimidation against open carriers did not stop. Cities in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Georgia, and Louisiana have paid cash settlements over the last two years to settle lawsuits by open carriers. In one Virginia case, a federal judge upheld the lawsuit mainly on the grounds of unlawful social security demands by police, something alleged against West Milwaukee by Mr. Gonzalez in his complaint filed today in federal court.
Last year the United States Supreme court overturned the DC gun ban in District of Columbia v. Heller, holding that the Second Amendment provides the right to own and "carry" handguns. The Court's opinion in dicta noted that while bans on concealed carry outside the home were probably not unconstitutional, state courts have historically held that the right to open carry guns outside the home is constitutionally protected. Wisconsin state courts have gone further, holding that in some instances concealed carry may be protected by the Wisconsin constitutional which provides at Article I, Section 25 that:
"The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose."