Wisconsin gun owners scored a major victory Tuesday when the state Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling, said the City of Madison’s Metro Transit agency cannot prohibit passengers from carrying firearms on city buses.
In the process, they also strengthened the state’s preemption statute, which prevents local governments from enacting stricter regulations than allowed under state law. The case was “remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” the court said.
The case was brought by Wisconsin Carry, Inc. and one of its members in 2014, challenging a ban on bus carry that had been adopted by Madison’s Transit and Parking Commission nine years earlier.
According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Justice Daniel Kelly wrote the majority opinion, noting that the state’s preemption statute, Act 35, prevents an agency rule from prohibiting licensed gun owners from carrying while riding on Madison buses. The city had argued that an “agency rule’ does not fall under that restriction.
The high court said otherwise.
“In the City’s reading of the statute,” Justice Kelly wrote, “the legislature made a conscious decision to withdraw firearms regulating authority from a municipality’s democratically-accountable governing body while leaving that authority entirely undiminished when exercised by the municipality’s democratically-unaccountable sub-units.”
Rulings at the lower court levels saw it the other way, however, so the case ended up before the state high court.
The case got some timely support from state Attorney General Brad Schimel, who filed an amicus brief “siding with the gun group,” the newspaper noted. Schimel and Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin contended that the bus ban conflicted with and essentially defeated the purpose of the state preemption statute, the newspaper explained.
This case is similar to a challenge of Washington State’s preemption law a few years ago by the City of Seattle, which tried to ban firearms in city park facilities by regulation rather than an ordinance. That case, Chan v. City of Seattle, was won at the trial court and unanimously at the state Court of Appeals when it was challenged by the Second Amendment Foundation, National Rifle Association, Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Washington Arms Collectors and five individual citizens. The city lost at both levels, and when it sought review by the state Supreme Court, it was turned down.