For example, 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. 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. See Werstein, 60 Wis. 2d at 672-73 (collecting cases illustrating disorderly conduct) (“In each of these cases, convictions for being ‘otherwise disorderly’ resulted from the inappropriateness of specific conduct because of the circumstances involved”)
¶7. The same concepts should apply to handguns. The state constitutional right to bear arms extends to openly carrying a handgun for lawful purposes. As illustrated by a recent municipal court case in West Allis, a person openly carrying a holstered handgun on his own property while doing lawn work should not face a disorderly conduct charge.5 If, however, a person brandishes a handgun in public, the conduct may lose its constitutional protection. Again, “[i]t is the combination of conduct and circumstances that is crucial in applying the [disorderly conduct] statute to a particular situation.” Maker, 48 Wis. 2d at 616.
¶8. Finally, several law enforcement agencies have asked whether, in light of Article I, § 25, they may stop a person openly carrying a firearm in public to investigate possible criminal activity, including disorderly conduct. We say yes. An officer may stop and briefly detain a person for investigative purposes (known as an investigative or Terry stop) if he has “reasonable suspicion,” based on articulable facts, of criminal activity. Illinois v. Wardlow, 528 U.S. 119, 123 (2000); United States v. Sokolow, 490 U.S. 1, 7 (1989); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 30 (1968). The existence of reasonable suspicion depends on the totality of the circumstances, including the information known to the officer and any reasonable inferences to be drawn at the time of the stop. United States v. Arvizu, 544 U.S. 266 (2002) (reaffirming “totality of the circumstances” test). Even though open carry enjoys constitutional protection, it may still give rise to reasonable suspicion when considered in totality. It is not a shield against police investigation or subsequent prosecution. See State v. Anderson, 155 Wis. 2d 77, 84, 454 N.W.2d 763 (1990) (police officers not required to first eliminate the possibility of innocent behavior before making investigatory stop). ¶9. And “even when officers have no basis for suspecting a particular individual, they may generally ask questions of that individual, [and] ask to examine the individual's identification,” as long as the police do not convey a message that compliance is mandatory. Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429, 434-35 (1991). The Fourth Amendment does not prevent police from making voluntary or consensual contact with persons engaged in constitutionally protected conduct. See United States v. Mendenhall, 446 U.S. 544, 553-54 (1980). Accordingly, a law enforcement officer does not violate the Fourth Amendment by approaching an individual in public and asking questions. Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497 (1983). An officer may approach and question someone as long as the questions, the circumstances and the officer's behavior do not convey to the subject that he must comply with the requests. Bostick, 501 U.S. at 435-36. The person approached need not answer any questions. As long as he or she remains free to walk away, there has been no intrusion on liberty requiring a particularized and objective Fourth Amendment justification. See Mendenhall, 446 U.S. at 554.