State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said openly carrying firearms is legal in a memo he sent to district attorneys Monday afternoon.And I appreciate this.
"The Department (of Justice) believes that mere open carry of a firearm, absent additional facts and circumstances, should not result in a disorderly conduct charge," the Republican attorney general wrote in the memo.
Wisconsin and Illinois are the only states that have an outright ban on carrying concealed weapons. But Wisconsin's statute is silent on carrying weapons openly, such as in a clearly visible belt holster.
But people who openly carry guns often have been charged with disorderly conduct. That police practice has come under scrutiny recently.
"A hunter openly carrying a rifle or shotgun on his property during hunting season while quietly tracking game should not face a disorderly conduct charge," Van Hollen wrote. "But if the same hunter carries the same rifle or shotgun through a crowded street while barking at a passerby, the conduct may lose its constitutional protection."
"The same concepts should apply to handguns," he added, citing the West Allis case. He noted that brandishing a gun in public is not legal, however.
Van Hollen said police retain the right to stop someone who is openly carrying a weapon to investigate possible crimes, including disorderly conduct.
"Even though open carry enjoys constitutional protection, it may still give rise to reasonable suspicion when considered in totality," he wrote. "It is not a shield against police investigation or subsequent prosecution."
Same with checking out suspected terrorists' phone records. It's the bad guys we want. Not Joe with from the gun show.