I'd really rather you didn't
The open carry advocates are back and they'd like you to feel unsafe and uncomfortable while you shop for your groceries or get your caffeine fix for the day.
According to a recent police report, several individuals took it upon themselves to pack heat and walk into Fair Trade Coffee on State St. making the owner, and presumably most of the patrons, feel deeply troubled.
I was told that a similar situation played itself out at Trader Joe's on Monroe St. around the same time, involving a gentleman with a pistol at his side who handed out pamphlets extolling the virtue of projectile weapons to both staff and customers.
It is currently legal to openly carry a firearm if you have a license to do so in Wisconsin (there are some restrictions, including a ban on having a gun in a vehicle or any private or state property that explicitly prohibits them). These folks are apparently just especially appreciative of said right.
Of course, enjoying a right doesn't automatically bestow a person with tact, as has become painfully clear in cases such as these. I can only assume that someone who decides to bring a piece into a public place-especially a business-is at least vaguely aware that they're going to freak more people out than win converts to their cause. After all, you're always going to succeed in making a statement by carrying a weapon, but you're far less likely to achieve any real personal security, which is allegedly the main rallying cry for handgun advocates.
Carrying a gun-or any weapon-usually just makes you a target: for scrutiny, for attack, for arrest, for scaring the pants off your fellow citizens. The likelihood that you'll find yourself in the middle of a crime while packing is miniscule. The numbers get smaller still when you start talking about actual successful prevention or enforcement.
I don't believe all police are infallible warriors for the Greater Good, but I do believe there are much higher percentages of them that are properly trained to deal with criminals and emergency situations than there are among even licensed civilian gun owners.
"But Emily!" I can hear people crying, "If you criminalize guns then only criminals will have them!"
Yes! Exactly! It makes it that much easier for police and other onlookers to sort criminals from upstanding citizens when only one group is likely to be brandishing a weapon. It also lowers the number of bullets likely to be flying through the air in any given situation. And it's not like there's anything we can do to completely eradicate guns from the world (though I kind of wish we could). Why not at least attempt, then, to keep things a little bit simpler?
OK, though, you want your open carry laws. Fine. There does appear to be a constitutional basis for it and I doubt very much there's much chance of overturning it any time soon.
Just don't act surprised and martyred when a cop detains you for questioning or every single person at the supermarket singles you out as a crazy person. After all, with great firepower comes great responsibility.
Me? I'm content to go unarmed into the frozen foods section.
Muddying the waters of the sex offender registry
This has to be up there with getting rid of the thing all together in terms of what you never want to see happen to the sex offender registry in Wisconsin.
The State Supreme Court just ruled that, even though his crime was not remotely sexual in nature, a young man convicted of false imprisonment of a minor must register as a sex offender on the state's list.
It's a pretty ridiculous case and does a lot to undermine the effectiveness and use of the list which seems like a fairly heinous thing to do. It also smacks rather loudly of being unconstitutional, so one hopes it'll be appealed to an even higher court.
Writing for the minority's dissenting opinion, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley summed the ruling up like so:
"I conclude that there is no rational basis for making Smith register as a sex offender when everybody acknowledges that there was nothing sexual about his offense," she wrote.
Bradley added that in siding with the state, the majority rejected the notion that the purpose of the sex offender registry is to protect the public from sex offenders.
"When the registry is clogged by offenders who bear no meaningful relationship to its legislative purpose, the court undermines the legislative purpose in creating the registry," she wrote. "The majority holds its analysis up as 'a paradigm of judicial restraint.' To the contrary, I conclude that it has abdicated its responsibility."
Indeed. I'm incredibly uncomfortable with any judge or court that completely fails to consider the unique facts of a case in determining the ruling. It's why I'm against mandatory minimum sentencing laws as well. This sort of blanket judgment mindset only serves to water down our justice system, oftentimes utterly undermining the otherwise good intentions of a given rule.
The sex offender list and its uses within the community is already a contentious and difficult enough issue to deal with why make it even harder by throwing in a mess of people who don't belong there in the first place? It's not fair to them (regardless of their other offenses) and it's especially not fair to the community.
Callooh! Callay! It's election day! Do you civic duty and give an at least passing glance to what's on the ballot and then get on down to your polling place and get voting. These are a few resources to help you along: