Tosa Takes First Step Toward Gun Ban in City Venues
City buildings and certain events in Hart Park would bar both concealed and openly carried weapons under city attorney's proposal.
By the time Wisconsin's new law allowing people to carry concealed weapons goes into effect in November, Wauwatosa could have its own law in place that is considerably more strict in banning weapons from city buildings.
"Right now, open carry is legal," Police Chief Barry Weber reminded a Common Council committee Tuesday night. "You could walk in here with a gun strapped to your leg."
Currently, weapons are banned only in part of City Hall while Municipal Court is in session.
But a provision in the state concealed-carry law not only allows municipalities to ban concealed weapons from any or all of their buildings, it allows them to ban openly carried weapons as well, said City Attorney Alan Kesner.
Kesner's office introduced a proposal Tuesday recommending that the Common Council do just that.
The proposal covering city buildings is fairly cut and dried. A memo from Kesner to the Community Development Committee says, "The Common Council should introduce an ordinance prohibiting the possession of weapons at all city-owned and operated buildings" and post signs accordingly.
A second recommendation covering public spaces outdoors is a bit more complicated.
The new state law does not allow the city to ban weapons from parks, either openly carried or concealed, Kesner said. It does, however, allow the organizers of special events to ban weapons from their venues.
Citing the principles of "police power" and "home rule" granted to municipalities, Kesner said, the city can make it a condition of the rental contract with event organizers in Hart Park and its stadium that they must ban weapons during their events.
Kesner's memo to council members addressed only the city-owned park and not events held in other public spaces, such as on city streets during festivals.
"The law defines special events pretty tightly," Kesner said in an interview Wednesday. "It states that they have to be events for which there is a gate or designated entrance and where admission is charged.
"I think that open-air events like Tosafest would be tough to sell as something you could control under those conditions."
The Community Development Committee discussed the proposal only briefly before voting to introduce it formally at its next meeting in two weeks.
Whitefish Bay has already passed a similar ordinance and Brookfield is developing its own. In Sturtevant, meanwhile, the police chief is against a ban in Village Hall.
Aldermen did ask Weber about his thoughts on the matter, and while not specifically going on record for or against the proposal, he said simply, "Keep in mind that the government's first duty is to protect the pubic."
Ald. Jacqueline Jay expressed her concern that the public should be given ample opportunity to speak on the matter, and Kesner assured her that all committee meetings where it will be discussed would, as always, be open to public comment.
Weber had one final thought for the evening, speaking, he said, as someone who had been carrying a weapon for 39 years.
"It's a travesty that in this country people don't feel safe unless they're carrying a weapon," he said. "It didn't use to be that way."
The text of the city attorney's memo is attached in the photo gallery.