Citizen Wausau

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Is Concealed Carry really a big deal?

by on October 18th, 2011

As the classroom requirements for the concealed carry classes are being finalized, the City of Wausau is looking at how the ability for people to legally carry concealed weapons affects them.
The Public Health and Safety Committee addressed this issue last night at their meeting.  This first came up on their agenda a few months ago and a couple of people (myself included) showed up to comment on this item.  However, because so much of the actual new rule had not yet been finalized, the Committee thought it best to table the item until the specifics of the rule were clearer.  According to the minutes of September meeting when it was made clear that concealed carry would be on the October agenda, the Committee decided that their October meeting would be moved from the small conference room they normally have it to Council Chambers, as they expected a large turn out.

Well… when it came to the concealed carry issue and the turnout, I was it.

The city attorney provided a complete and total list to the committee of all city-owned properties.  There was discussion concerning which properties would not allow weapons by statute (such as Council Chambers when it was being used as the municipal courtroom).  There was also discussion that certain city properties had to allow concealed carry by statute, including city-owned parking ramps, and residential rental properties owned by Community Development.  However, the majority of the discussion seemed to favor an outright prohibition on city property.

Being the only person there for that issue, I did ask to address the committee.  I told them I wasn’t going to talk about the liability issues or the constitutional law issues because to be honest, I am not experts in those issues.  Instead, I want to talk to the committee from a simple common sense point of view, where I feel quite qualified.

Although concealed carry is new toWisconsin, it is not new — 48 states already allow it in one form or another.  There is this vision that all of a sudden every man, woman and child is going to be “packing heat,” just out looking for a problem that they can solve.  That is simply not the case when looking at the other states where this is legal.  I asked how many on the committee had lived in… or better yet, visited a state outside of Wisconsin or Illinois?  When they were in Texas or Minnesota, did it occur to them that the person walking next to them on the sidewalk could have a .45 in a shoulder holster under their jacket or a snub-nose .32 in their purse?

I thought that this prohibition that the City was looking at enacting was little more than a solution looking for a problem.  I indicated that the majority of people aren’t going to go out and get a concealed carry permit.  And, even those that do aren’t going to carry every time they leave the house.  I did admit that there are some who want the ability to carry so that they can step in and be the hero if they witness a bad situation… and I also admitted that those types of people do worry me a bit and there are some legitimate concerns about that scenario.  However, the vast majority of those who will be exercising concealed carry will be doing so for their own personal protection, and are not likely to pull out the gun except when they, themselves are in a situation where they must protect themselves.

The gun in the woman’s purse scenario is what I see as the probable most likely case of a person carrying a concealed weapon for personal protection.  Some on the Committee were worried when different areas in the building had different rules.  Go into city hall to pay your water bill, you are fine…. But go into city hall for a municipal court hearing to contest a parking ticket, and the gun can’t come in with you.  One of their reasons for a complete ban is to prevent this type of confusing situation.  However, I would hope that an aspect of the classes is to teach those with the permit where they may and may not carry, that way a person knows if they are going to municipal court, take the gun out of the purse.  I think the “confusion” argument is over-rated.

I explained that more confusion was likely to happen when the City went above and beyond the statutory restrictions.  After a while, once the “new gun smell” wears off, concealed carry will be second nature and although a woman will not forget that there is a sidearm safely tucked away in her purse, it will not be a big deal.  You could go to City Hall for a city council meeting and get to the door and see the No Firearms sign.  Okay… so now one of three things happens.  The person truly did forget the gun was in there and entered council chambers.  The person did not want to walk all the way back to their car to secure their gun and just walked through the doors to city hall with the gun figuring it wouldn’t be an issue, or they will walk back to the car and now you have cars parked all around city hall the night of a city council meeting, and some of those cars will very likely have weapons in them because they couldn’t be brought inside.

To me, having signs that restrict carrying when there normally wouldn’t be a sign would be much more confusing for those who have gone through the training.  If they didn’t expect to see the sign, now they have to make other arrangements.

The Committee did make a very valid point that sometimes at Committee and Council meetings, emotions can take over some issues and debates have been known to get heated.  The fear there is that by allowing the weapons, when a situation becomes heated and emotional, would someone remember in the heat of the moment the access they have to the firearm they have in their backpack or purse that they have been carrying for some time and would the heat of the moment present them with a temptation to pull it out?

In my opinion, that is a lot of what ifs.  And, of course, you are really not doing anything to prevent someone from bringing a firearm to the meeting; you are only posting a sign that makes it illegal to do so.  A number of cities have passed bans for talking on cell phones while driving, but I have personally seen that posting a sign and making it illegal alone doesn’t often stop anyone.

Another concern presented by Police Chief Hardel has a lot more credence.  His worry, in addition to those who might draw a weapon while in a heat of the moment emotional debate, is those who will carry a weapon for reasons other than personal protection.  And, I stated earlier in this blog, those that carry weapons for the purpose of being ready to step in when they witness a bad situation worry me.  Let’s say someone does pull a weapon at City Hall during a Council Meeting.  Council meetings do have (at least one) uniformed police officer for security.  If someone pulls a gun, that police officer needs to assess the threat and react.  If the only ones in the room with drawn weapons are the perpetrator and the police officer, the possible scenarios that the officer has to work through are limited.  However, all of a sudden another gun or two appears.  Are those guns from people supporting the perpetrator making them additional threats, or are they there to assist law enforcement?  And, while law enforcement will be concerned about things such as cross fire and innocent victims and have gone through training for situations such as this, the concealed carry classes probably don’t go through these type of situations, and a well meaning citizen could actually complicate an issue that a well trained officer could have taken control of by just talking with the perpetrator.

It’s a complicated issue.  However, we are adults and at some point law-abiding citizens need to be treated as such.  If we have taken the class and pass the background checks and gone through the steps to concealed carry, then we should be allowed to carry as a matter of principle.  The law addressed arrears where common sense determined concealed carry to be a bad idea.  To expand prohibitions beyond the state law starts to cross the common sense threshold.  Does the increased SENSE of security and safety members of the City Council and members of the Public Health and Safety Committee get with a total ban truly represent an ACTUAL increase in safety or security?

Although members of the Committee contacted other Wisconsin cities to see what they were doing, no one on the Committee (that I am aware of, and yes I asked) contacted city halls in other states where concealed carry is already allowed.

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