Monday, October 1, 2007

CCW Deemed Unconstitutional in WI

Judge Throws Out Concealed Weapon Charge

Katie DeLong
Associated Press

MILWAUKEE - A judge has found the prosecution of a pizza driver on concealed weapons charges to be unconstitutional.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Daniel A. Noonan agreed Monday with defense attorneys' contention that Andres Vegas, 46, needed the gun to protect himself in his chosen work, citing state Supreme Court decisions that found justified exceptions to the state's concealed-carry ban.

The ruling means Vegas will not face criminal charges in the nonfatal shootings. Prosecutors had filed a misdemeanor count of carrying a concealed weapon after the second shooting, in January, and said Vegas had been warned after a July 2006 shooting not to carry a concealed gun while driving for his job.

"Given Vegas's experience, he has a need for a gun at a moment's notice," the judge said in his decision. "Enclosing and unloading the weapon is not a reasonable alternative to secure and protect his safety.

"Plus, Vegas while delivering pizzas enters and exits his car constantly; it would be unreasonable for him every time that he enters his car to require him to unload it and place it in a case and then reverse the process every time he exits. This defeats the purpose of having the gun for security and protection."

Craig Mastantuono, one of two lawyers who represented Vegas, said the weapons ban had presented Vegas with untenable choices of either carry a gun illegally or else go unarmed on delivery runs in the same central-city neighborhoods where he has been robbed four times.

"Mr. Vegas's situation may seem unique, but given the gap between the rights that are afforded Wisconsin citizens in the right to bear arms amendment and the prohibitions that restrict Wisconsin residents in the concealed-carry general ban that was never updated by the Legislature, I think it's going to be a recurring situation, quite frankly," Mastantuono said.

Vegas became a delivery driver in a Milwaukee suburb after the charge was filed, Mastantuono, and is now a cook.

"Mr. Vegas felt required by circumstances -- not only of threats to his safety but being prosecuted for defending himself -- he felt required to change careers," Mastantuono said.

Milwaukee County Deputy District Attorney Kent Lovern said his office has no plans to appeal the decision.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)