MADISON, Wis. – For an idea of where state Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg might stand on Second Amendment issues, one need only look to a high profile concealed-carry lawsuit in Wisconsin’s high court.
The liberal Kloppenburg presided over the three-judge panel that ruled last August that a Madison ban on guns on city buses does not violate Wisconsin’s concealed-carry statute.
In upholding a lower court’s decision, the Fourth District Court of Appeals pushed aside the argument that state law trumps city policy. Instead, the appeals court defended the position that a local “rule” is different than an “ordinance.”
“Applying the language of (the state statute) as written, we agree with the circuit court and the city that the statute plainly preempts only ‘ordinances’ and ‘resolutions,’ ” Judge Paul Lundsten wrote for the panel. “And, we agree, it is clear that the bus rule is not an ‘ordinance’ or ‘resolution’ under case law providing generally accepted meanings for those terms.”
The lawsuit was brought by Second Amendment defense group Wisconsin Carry Inc., which has appealed the liberal Fourth District ruling to the state Supreme Court.
Should Kloppenburg win her campaign next month against conservative Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, Kloppenburg could preside over such Second Amendment cases. And, as has been reported, the liberal judge has no qualms about involving herself in cases where she would seem to have an inherent conflict.
Nik Clark, chairman and president of Wisconsin Carry, said it is frustrating that there has been so little focus on Kloppenburg’s record on Second Amendment issues, particularly a case that so clearly speaks to the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Kloppenburg and the Madison-based appeals court played “word games” with the law, Clark said. If the state Legislature changed the wording of the law to cover the appeals court’s perceived language loophole, Kloppenburg and her fellow judges would come up with another word or phrase to get around the concealed-carry law.
“There’s no end to the word games one could play in their attempt to come up with the conclusion they want, which in this case infringes on people’s rights to self-defense and to keep and bear arms,” Clark told Wisconsin Watchdog recently on “Madison in the Morning,” on NewsTalk 1310 WIBA.
Last week, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel filed a “friend-of-the-court” brief in Wisconsin Carry, Inc. v. City of Madison. The brief supports the argument that state law preempts certain municipal gun regulations, namely Madison’s Transit and Parking Commission’s rule banning all weapons on its Madison Metro buses, according to the filing.
Schimel argues, contrary to Madison’s claims, “that a municipality cannot delegate power that it does not have, and that municipalities do not have the power to regulate firearms in ways more stringent than state laws.”
“Since state law allows people to possess and transport firearms in vehicles, Madison may not ban them from its buses,” Schimel said in a statement.
Kloppenburg and the appeals court, however, seem to apply a Clinton-esque, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” approach to the concealed-carry law.
It’s interesting to note that a court that has liberally interpreted law now argues it must assume that the Republican-controlled Legislature’s ultimate intent is expressed in the precise language used in the law. If the Legislature had intended to prevent local agencies from regulating firearms, it would have done just that, the court determined.
Schimel and concealed-carry advocates argue the Legislature has.
Kloppenburg, like Bradley, has declined to provide specifics on her views regarding the Second Amendment.
Bradley’s campaign has said the justice owns a gun and has a concealed-carry permit. She also is a former member of the NRA.
Kloppenburg does not own a gun and does not hold a concealed-carry permit, her campaign told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The judge also has never belonged to the NRA and does not hunt.
Gun-rights voters make up a formidable voting bloc in Wisconsin. There are more than 285,000 concealed-carry permit holders in the Badger State, including the 40,452 added to the rolls last year, according to the state Department of Justice.
Clark said concealed-carry permit holders are well informed, and they will see through Kloppenburg’s and the appeals court’s mincing of words on a key Second Amendment issue.
“These are engaged people, people who vote. They are people who are concerned,” he said. “Carrying a gun is not a casual thing for people. This is a very motivated group of people who see how important it is. And it is. It is literally your life in some cases.”