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Posted: 6/15/2009 4:18:34 PM EST
Ban on firearms in parks on agenda

Monday, June 15, 2009 12:37 PM CDT

The final reading of an ordinance adding city parks to the restricted areas for openly carrying firearms will be on the agenda of the Watertown Common Council when it meets Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of the municipal building.

Under the proposed ordinance, no person will be allowed to openly carry a firearm on any land located in city parks unless that weapon is unloaded and enclosed within a carrying case.

People are already restricted from carrying a gun within any public building or athletic field owned by the city or Watertown Unified School District. Guns also cannot be carried at city taverns, on school grounds or within 1,000 feet from the grounds of a school.

This review of current open carry regulations came in the wake of the Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's opinion that was issued on April 20. Van Hollen issued an advisory memorandum to state prosecutors and police departments reiterating the public's right to openly bear arms in Wisconsin. The memorandum also delineated restrictions on police officers in enforcing local firearms regulations.

City Attorney Tom Levi said at the last council meeting what is being proposed in the ordinance is similar to state law.

I plan on speaking at the meeting tomorrow night. I think I’m going to hit the legislative purpose of a preemption law and "similar to" vs "more restrictive" argument. There is a time of public comment at the beginning of the meeting and at the close. Basically the city police chief and attorney want to curtail firearms in parks because they don’t want to deal with it at Riverfest and want to keep guns out of parks. I think the counsel for the most part is just going along with their advice. It’d would nice to have some more people at the meeting speaking up as well, hopefully changing some of the councilmen’s minds.
Link Posted: 6/16/2009 3:28:00 AM EST
Thank you for taking the time to attend the meeting and speak on our behalf as gun owner's! I cannot make it, but will be pulling for ya!
Link Posted: 6/16/2009 10:08:10 AM EST
The more people that can attend the better, I wish I could go... you can just stand up during the public comments and state why you don't want this (it's more stringent than state law)...

We (the firearm community) had 9 people show up at the Greenfield Council meeting last night and put the stops to the "Signage" legislation, at least until they revise it...
Link Posted: 6/16/2009 4:16:42 PM EST
Went and spoke tonight. Not really anyone at the meeting (aldermen included). One other gentlemen spoke after me and said he basically agreed with the ordinance.

I explained the meaning of a preemption statute and explained that there was a nexus between the “the same as or similar to, and no more stringent than” language. I then examined the differences and similarities between city parks and state parks and concluded that the city park ban was just a means to ban guns in city parks. I concluded that the city will most likely get sued if they enforce the park ban and that compelling legal arguments could be made against the park ban.

City attorney said that Wisconsin doesn’t really have a preemption law and said that protection is needed because 2 officers were shot recently in Milwaukee. In his opinion there is nothing wrong with the proposed ordinance.

The police chief said that they had never had anyone open carry in city parks before and didn’t really foresee a problem.

Alderman asked how visitors to the city would know about the park ban, whether the city attorney was 100% sure the ordinance was acceptable, and called out the city attorney for his analogy between the thug involved in the police shooting and law-abiding citizens.

Alderman also recommended the ordinance be sent to the Wisconsin league of municipalities for legal review.

Over all I suppose it was successful. The city attorney got peppered with questions, and tipped his hand when he made the ignorant comments about the Milwaukee police shooting. The ordinance got delayed while it is getting reviewed. I think some of the aldermen are coming around. The final vote was going to be in 2 weeks but not sure about the time table as the ordinance is now being sent out for a second legal review. I’ll keep you’ll posted.
Link Posted: 6/17/2009 10:06:44 AM EST
Thanks for the update, and thanks for attending.
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