The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned an appeals court ruling and sided with a gun rights group, ruling that the city of Madison must allow bus passengers to carry concealed weapons.
The ruling, which could be used to challenge other transit systems across the state, concluded that local governments cannot enforce rules that contradict Wisconsin’s concealed-carry law.
The court ruled 5-2, with Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Shirley Abrahamson dissenting. Justice Daniel Kelly wrote the majority opinion.
Wisconsin Carry, a gun rights advocacy group, challenged the administrator of Madison’s Metro Transit in 2014 after it prohibited a passenger with a concealed-carry license from bringing a gun on a bus. The group argued Metro Transit’s policy prohibiting weapons of any kind on buses cannot supersede the state’s concealed-carry law signed by Gov. Scott Walker in 2011. The law allows people to get licenses that allow them to carry a concealed gun or carry a gun openly in school zones. Metro Transit adopted its rule in 2005.
An appeals court sided with the city in 2015, saying that Metro Transit’s rule did not amount to an “ordinance” or “resolution” banning concealed weapons, which the concealed-carry law prohibits.
In overturning that ruling, the Supreme Court concluded that passengers can bring firearms or other type weapons on buses, as long as they follow other applicable laws.
Justice Kelly argued that the concealed-carry law’s purpose is to allow the carrying of concealed weapons as broadly and uniformly as possible. He further said that the court must consider the “plain meaning” of the concealed-carry law rather than debate word choice. Following that reasoning, Metro Transit’s rule functions similarly to an ordinance or resolution passed by a municipality banning concealed weapons and therefore is superseded by the concealed-carry law.
In her dissent joined by Abrahamson, Bradley argued that the majority opinion expanded the law’s intent to fit its purpose. She argued Metro Transit’s policy does not amount to an ordinance or resolution.
Wisconsin Carry President Nik Clark said he expects the ruling to have implications in other Wisconsin cities, both in public transit systems and some public outdoor areas.
“There are other mass transit entities around the state that have prohibitive policies,” he said. “Once we review the decision, we’ll have a better understanding of how far-reaching it is.”
Clark said people who rely on public transit should be able to carry concealed weapons just as people who drive their own cars.
City of Madison attorney John Strange said the court ignored basic legal principles for a desired result.
“From a public safety perspective, the decision creates greater risk to passengers by allowing guns on moving and crowded buses,” he said.
Metro Transit’s spokesman Mick Rusch said that Metro Transit is concerned about the ruling’s impact on passenger safety but will comply with the law.