Gun Enthusiasts Fight Gun Ban on Public Transit

     MADISON, Wis. (CN) — Slinging legal arguments that never mentioned the right to bear arms, gun rights advocates argued before the Wisconsin Supreme Court Friday for the right to carry handguns on city buses.
     The dispute began when Wisconsin Carry Inc. sued the City of Madison in January 2014, challenging Madison’s Transit and Parking Commission for passing a rule forbidding “weapon[s] of any kind” on Madison Metro buses, according to a case summary provided by the Supreme Court’s public information office.
     So far, Wisconsin Carry has been unsuccessful both in the state court and in a lower appeals court.
     Wisconsin Carry’s attorney, John Monroe, argued Friday that a state law preventing a city from regulating firearms should restrict the city from granting that authority to a commission, such as the transit commission in Madison.
     While a city can grant power to a subdivision, he argued that “such power is limited to the power that the city has in the first place,” and the state has not given the city power to pass weapons bans on buses.
     Ryan J. Walsh from the Office of the Solicitor General argued on behalf of the state, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the gun rights group’s position.
     Walsh pointed out that the statute at issue was not intended to keep guns off municipal property.
     “The legislature has not given cities a free pass to ban firearms on their property,” he said.
     But Madison assistant city attorney John Walter Strange Jr. claimed the challenged statute only restricts municipalities from enacting laws that are more strict than the state law.
     The gun rights group’s argument fails before it reaches that point, Strange added: the state forbids a city from passing regulations. In this case, the city’s regulation stops at creating the transit commission. It is the commission that enacted the weapons ban.
     Walsh didn’t buy it, arguing that a city cannot skirt state laws forbidding it from taking direct action by taking indirect action to the same effect — in this case, through the transit commission.
     Despite their arguments dealing mainly with municipal authority and statutory construction, gun lovers had an ally in conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley, who repeatedly slammed the city for infringing on Second Amendment rights even though both parties and at least one judge pointed out that a Constitutional argument was not before the court.
     “Aren’t the parties asking us to ignore the plain language of the constitution?” she asked counsel at one point after his attempt to redirect the conversation to the arguments the parties had pled.
     She, along with fellow recent addition Judge Daniel Kelly, also repeatedly asked Strange whether a city commission could ban guns on public sidewalks and streets under his argument.
     No, Strange replied, because that would be more restrictive than state law, unlike the weapons ban on buses.
     Citing a state law granting owners the right to refuse to allow weapons in their cars, Strange argued that applying the same principle to city-owned buses is not any more restrictive.

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