Wisconsin citizens are legally allowed to carry firearms openly, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a memo to the state’s district attorneys Monday.
Currently, Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two states with laws preventing the carrying of concealed weapons. However, according to Van Hollen, there is nothing in state law regarding citizens who openly carry weapons.
“The Department (of Justice) believes that mere open carry of a firearm — absent additional facts and circumstances — should not result in a disorderly conduct charge,” Van Hollen wrote.
The memo came after various state district attorneys requested further information from the attorney general’s office regarding the relationship between the state’s statute allowing the open carry of firearms and the state’s disorderly conduct law.
In the memo, the attorney general cited a West Allis case in February, where a citizen wearing a holstered handgun on his property while doing lawn work was charged with disorderly conduct. According to Van Hollen, the man should not have faced a disorderly conduct charge.
Van Hollen did say, however, that the police may stop and question citizens who openly carry weapons if the officer has “reasonable suspicion based on articulable facts of criminal activity,” based on the individual circumstance.
Officers can also stop citizens even though they may not have any “basis to question the individual,” and can ask questions or verify a citizens’ identification, although the citizen being questioned does not have to answer, Van Hollen added.
“Even though open carry enjoys constitutional protection, it may still give rise to reasonable suspicion when considered in totality,” Van Hollen wrote.
According to University of Wisconsin political science professor Howard Schweber, the ruling is not common.
“I have to confess that’s an unusual rule. I am not familiar of another example of a state that has adopted a public carry law,” Schweber said.
On a federal level, the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution applies only to national laws, Schweber said, adding a recent Supreme Court decision ruled citizens could own a gun in their home, but said nothing about carrying a gun in public.