Your Gun Rights on the Streetcar
State Supreme Court says concealed carry is legal on public transit.
Milwaukee’s newest form of public transportation, the downtown streetcar, aims to connect commuters to Milwaukee’s thriving business district. The streetcar will bring more flexibility and choice to Milwaukee’s public transportation.
With this added method of transportation, it is important for gun owners and concealed carry permit holders to be aware that the government must honor the right to carry firearms while riding on public transportation.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Wisconsin Carry, Inc. v. City of Madison clarifies the rights of a concealed carry permit holder to bring his or her weapon on public transportation. The 74 page opinion focused on a City of Madison Metro Transit rule, which prohibited bringing any dangerous item onto city buses, including concealed weapons and firearms.
Madison Metro Transit argued that it had the authority to ban carrying weapons on the busses because its operation of public busses was akin to a private individual’s ownership of a vehicle. The Court held that while a private citizen may exclude passengers for any reason, or no reason at all, public transportation is held to a different standard.
The public nature of Metro Transit requires the government to have a legal basis for excluding passengers. The City is unable to prohibit passengers carrying weapons on public transportation because the concealed carry statute does not give a legal basis to exclude weapons on busses. The Court found that the state statute preempted the Metro Transit rule because a city is unable to forbid something the legislature has expressly authorized.
The absence of an explicit exception for public transportation in the Concealed Carry Statute means that the state cannot forbid licensed citizens from bringing weapons on public transportation. The purpose of the Concealed Carry Statute is to allow a broad authorization to carry weapons. The breadth of the statute is subject to limited exceptions and may only be restricted by the legislature. The Court’s broad interpretation of the statute aims to protect an individual’s right to move throughout the entire state with the confidence that they are not violating the law.
The Court’s decision reaffirms the rights of gun owners and concealed carry licensees. The increase of public transportation options in Milwaukee is a welcomed addition to the growing city. The expansion of public transportation allows all citizens to become more connected and mobile. Concealed carry permit holders must be aware that they too are free to use the expanded public transportation network. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has reassured gun owners that they will be allowed to make use of public transportation and maintain their right to lawfully carry their firearms.
James Lewis is a third-year law student at Marquette University. He is currently working as a law clerk at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin, & Brown, LLP, a full service law firm in Milwaukee, WI. He is interested in pursuing a legal career in litigation upon graduation.