West Allis man not guilty in open carry gun case
By Linda Spice of the Journal Sentinel
Posted: Feb. 17, 2009 12:26 p.m.
A West Allis municipal judge today ruled in favor of a local man arrested for disorderly conduct after a neighbor complained that he was carrying a gun while planting a tree.
Judge Paul Murphy found Brad Krause not guilty of disorderly conduct in a case that drew to a hearing numerous gun rights advocates to witness what may be the first open carry gun case heard in a Wisconsin courtroom.
For Krause, however, the significance of the case extended beyond gun rights: It was an infringement on civil liberties, he said after today's decision.
"The reason people are upset about this is it's not about guns. It's about civil liberties. And we obviously have a property issue. There was no warrant issued, no exigent circumstances, no permission to enter the property, yet the police stormed in with guns drawn and put my life at risk," Krause said. "My wife was very worried that she would be a widow in short order because I was planting a tree."
West Allis Police Chief Mike Jungbluth could not be reached for comment this afternoon.
West Allis Assistant City Attorney Jenna Merten, who prosecuted the case, was in trial today and was unavailable for comment. City Attorney Scott Post declined to comment because he had not yet learned the basis for the judge's decision, he said.
West Allis police responded to Krause's home last August after a neighbor called to ask about the legality of him openly carrying a gun in a holster on his property. Police responded, arrested Krause and ticketed him for disorderly conduct, an offense he and his attorney, Steven Cain, fought during a court trial in December. Police also seized his gun.
Cain said today, "The big overarching issue is whether open carry is legal. The law in Wisconsin really only limits concealed carry. The law in Wisconsin, as we see it, is that open carry is absolutely legal, protected, and should be."
Cain argued that the U.S. Supreme Court last summer in the case of D.C. vs. Heller concluded that open carry is "an individual right that shouldn't be abridged by law enforcement. That's what the case is generally all about."
In explaining why he was carrying a gun while planting a tree, Krause said, "There's no requirement to justify why you're able to exercise constitutional rights. I and everyone else are able to go to church, they're able to vote, they're able to speak their mind. Even though the city might not like it, we have that right."
The case is also one that has been watched closely around the country, particularly by the co-founders of the Virginia-based OpenCarry.org, John Pierce and Mike Stollenwerk.
Said Pierce: "Really, the larger issue is not even a gun rights issue. It's the issue of having a disorderly conduct statute that is a catchall statute for otherwise legal behavior."