Ed Flynn, Call Your Lawyer - Quickly!
By Jeff Wagner
Story Created: Apr 22, 2009
Monday, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen issued an advisory legal opinion stating that openly carrying a firearm was not, in and of itself, a basis for a charge of disorderly conduct.
This morning, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn announced that regardless of what the Attorney General says, his officers are under orders "to take down anyone with a firearm". By that he says he means that "officers seeing anybody carrying a gun will put them on the ground, take the gun away and then decide if the person has a right to carry it."
Ed, for God's sake, shut your pie hole and call your lawyer!
Frankly, the firearms laws in this State are a mess. Most of the present problems could have been avoided had the Governor agreed to develop a reasonable policy allowing law-abiding citizens (with appropriate training, licensing and certification) to carry concealed firearms under certain circumstances. He didn't though. As a result, you now have laws on the book which are in direct conflict with the plain language of the Wisconsin Constitution.
I would much prefer to have trained, certified citizens who have passed a background check carrying concealed firearms than have untrained people wandering down the street with guns on their hips. That's not where we are with the law though.
Which brings us to Chief Flynn.
Before police can "arrest" an individual, they need probable cause to believe that the person has committed a crime. The first time that one of Flynn's officers "tackles" a person they observe doing nothing more than carrying a firearm openly, they are inviting a lawsuit against the City. If the person happens to be seriously injured while they are being "taken down" without probable cause, Flynn better get ready to open the City's checkbook.
Hopefully, we won't see a large number of people suddenly start "packing heat" as they stroll the streets of Milwaukee. My suggestion however would be that Chief Flynn immediately sit down with the City Attorney and develop a protocol for dealing with the people who do start carrying guns openly.
Candidly, ordering officers to assault people who are engaging in behavior that the Attorney General of the State defines as lawful is ill conceived and may, in and of itself, be unlawful. That's not to say that the police aren't allowed to investigate situations where they see people carrying firearms openly. It's just that the "investigation" should be within the limits of what's permitted by the law and the Constitution.
Hopefully, Chief Flynn was just engaging in some hyperbole when he spouted off on this matter. If he was serious though, the City Attorney needs to get his attention before Milwaukee gets hit with a rash of lawsuits.
In a larger sense though, perhaps this latest ruling will get the attention of the Governor and the Legislature - and motivate them to straighten out the quagmire that Wisconsin gun laws have become once and for all!