Op Ed

Your Gun Rights on the Streetcar

State Supreme Court says concealed carry is legal on public transit.

By - Sep 5th, 2017 04:16 pm
The streetcar near the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

The streetcar near the Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

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.

The Supreme Court determined that the rule created a more restrictive prohibition on firearms than the state Concealed Carry Statute. In the opinion, Justice Kelly relied on the Local Regulation Statue in holding that the Metro Transit’s rule wrongly prohibited a licensed citizen from carrying his or her concealed weapon. The Local Regulation Statute forbids cities and municipalities from enacting stricter firearm regulation than state firearm statutes.

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.

8 thoughts on “Op Ed: Your Gun Rights on the Streetcar”

  1. Steven Blackwood says:

    Does this mean that guns are allowed in courtroom?

  2. Will says:

    These cowards who make these laws won’t let bring then into the capital or their offices. Just a bunch of dinosaurs getting NRA bags of money

  3. Cindy Belanger says:

    Concealed carry guns on public transportation do not make me feel safe. The more guns there are, the more violence there is.

  4. pg1946 says:

    Oh goody! Now we can have legal shoot-outs on the bus and streetcar (Unfortunately for our legislators, the FAA and Homeland Security don’t let firearms on board). Seriously, I agree with Ms. Belanger: More guns around do not make me feel safer or make anyone in public places safer “The more guns there are, the more violence there is”–she is right on that count. Since the concealed carry law went into effect, gun violence and gun deaths in Milwaukee have increased. Even if someone were to open fire on those who supposedly are “bad guys” on the bus, it is almost a certainty that someone opening fire on a bus or streetcar would cause collateral injury and death in that confined space. I agree with WIll, too. There has been no need for concealed carry, nor has their been hue and cry from hunters, and this whole mess smells of NRA contributions to legislators and their campaign fund accounts.

  5. AG says:

    Weird… there was a whole conceal carry conference downtown the other weekend that had thousands of people in one place with firearms, yet I fail to remember any shootouts.

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    Prophet of the truth AG. That anecdote is total proof that people are Marxist snowflake pussies for caring about whether or not people on public transit are carrying loaded weapons.

  7. Mike says:

    “Legal” shootouts and dangerous situations on the street car..?

    Has this happened on our bus system? How about Madison’s bus system?

    How many murders and shootouts have occurred in Wisconsin that were caused by permit holders compared to non-permit holders?

    Are felons taking advantage of our permit system to get licensed so they can carry a firearm around that they already can’t legally own?

  8. AG says:

    Mike, it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what the laws are. That misunderstanding is created through misplaced fear of what the real underlying problems are. All you can do is try to educate… although few actually seem willing to listen or challenge their own biases.

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