Northwoods municipalities block concealed carry in public buildings
Some area municipalities are still fine-tuning ordinances banning weapons from most government buildings.
The Rhinelander City Council and the Oneida County Board both have discussed creating concealed carry ordinances, and are expected to pass those ordinances officially before Nov. 1. The Town of Lake Tomahawk was the first municipality in the area to draft official language concerning the law, officially passing its ordinance in August.
The ordinances are in response to the new state law that will take effect in November, allowing residents to carry concealed handguns if they receive training and obtain a permit.
The law prohibits guns in police stations, sheriff’s departments, municipal courts, county jails and federal penitentiaries, but officials can decide whether to allow guns on some government properties. In Lake Tomahawk, Town Chairman Rick Mazurczak said that, while quite a bit of thought and discussion went into it, the decision to ban weapons in public buildings was relatively cut and dry, passing unanimously at the August meeting.
“We made the decision that we thought was in the best interest of the town,” said Mazurczak. “As soon as we heard about the change in the state law, we decided to act and get our ordinance done. I guess we were pretty much first to the punch, at least around here.”
According to Oneida County Corporation Council Brian Desmond, the county’s Law Enforcement and Judiciary Committee has instructed him to draft a resolution that would stop people from carrying weapons into any county-owned building, regardless of whether they have a concealed carry permit.
“The final wording still needs to be drafted, but I have the idea of what was requested by the committee,” said Desmond. “If the committee gives the go-ahead, the County Board will likely be able to vote on the resolution at the Oct. 18 meeting.”
According to Desmond, the committee has worked jointly with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Department on what is to be included in the resolution. While Sheriff Jeff Hoffman was not directly involved in creating the wording for the legislation, he understands why the ordinances, which are being passed en masse in municipalities around the state prior to the Nov. 1 deadline, has become a hot button issue with some.
“It breaks down to creating a balance between the second amendment of the Constitution versus the security of public personnel,” said Hoffman. “Any time you are talking about Constitutional rights, it becomes a delicate issue.”
The City of Rhinelander is further ahead of the game, as City Attorney Phil Parkinson last week circulated a draft ordinance to city officials and members of the city’s Protection of Persons and Property Committee calling for a complete ban on all weapons in public buildings. The ordinance will be set for a public hearing at the council’s regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 10. According to Rhinelander Police Chief Mike Steffes, the city ordinance mirrors the current law concerning the carrying of weapons in public buildings in the state.
“We felt obligated to get something in place before the state law goes into effect,” said Steffes. “We chose to wait until there was less chance of changes in the state law before going forward with a local ordinance.”
Steffes agreed that the issue continues to be touchy around the state. Last week the Village of Germantown in southeastern Wisconsin bucked the state trend in shaping its concealed carry ordinance when, following a contentious debate, the village board approved an ordinance that will allow concealed carry in public buildings like its village hall.
“I certainly believe that citizens should have the ability to protect themselves, but our city council and city officials are often put in the position where they are charged with making decisions that can be life-altering for those involved, so its somewhat a relief to know that they can continue to make those decisions in a safe environment,” said Steffes. “Personally I am a strong proponent of the right to bear arms, but I’ve also seen the damage weapons can do.”
Penalties for breaking a concealed carry ordinance, typically, are akin to those associated with trespassing violations.