Wisconsin: State law prohibiting concealed carry is unconstitutional


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Driver's gun charge tossed
Judge finds prosecution of delivery man unconstitutional

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Posted: Sept. 24, 2007

A Milwaukee County judge found the concealed-weapon prosecution of a pizza driver who shot two would-be robbers in seven months unconstitutional Monday.

The ruling by Circuit Judge Daniel A. Noonan means Andres Vegas won't face criminal charges in the non-fatal shootings. Prosecutors had filed a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon after the second shooting, in January, and said Vegas had been warned after a July 2006 shooting not to carry a concealed gun while driving for his job.

However, Noonan agreed with defense attorneys' contention that Vegas needed the gun to protect himself in his chosen work, citing state Supreme Court decisions that found justified exceptions to the state's concealed-carry ban.
"Given Vegas's experience, he has a need for a gun at a moment's notice," Noonan writes in his decision. "Enclosing and unloading the weapon is not a reasonable alternative to secure and protect his safety. Plus, Vegas while delivering pizzas enters and exits his car constantly; it would be unreasonable for him every time that he enters his car to require him to unload it and place it in a case and then reverse the process every time he exits. This defeats the purpose of having the gun for security and protection."

Craig Mastantuono, one of two attorneys who represented Vegas, said the weapons ban had presented Vegas, 46, with two untenable choices: either carry a gun illegally or else go unarmed on delivery runs in the same central-city neighborhoods where he has been robbed four times.

"Mr. Vegas's situation may seem unique," Mastantuono said, "but given the gap between the rights that are afforded Wisconsin citizens in the right to bear arms amendment and the prohibitions that restrict Wisconsin residents in the concealed-carry general ban that was never updated by the Legislature, I think it's going to be a recurring situation, quite frankly."

Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern said the office has no plans to appeal the decision. An appeal could give a higher court an opportunity to hand down a precedent-setting decision on whether the concealed-carry prohibition is constitutional, whereas Noonan's decision applies only to Vegas's case.

Mastantuono said Vegas has moved on, career-wise. After the charge was filed, Vegas became a delivery driver in a Milwaukee suburb. He is now a cook.
"Mr. Vegas felt required by circumstances - not only of threats to his safety but being prosecuted for defending himself - he felt required to change careers," Mastantuono said.

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