Explore The NRA Universe Of Websites

APPEARS IN News

Political Report: Why Elections Matter--Wisconsin's Case in Point

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

We've often written in these pages that elections matter. But often, it's too easy to look at that statement in the abstract--in terms of inside-the-Beltway political maneuvering and media spin. And that makes it too easy to forget that the outcome of elections affects the freedom--and the lives--of real Americans. This month, I'm going to tell you about one of those Americans.

No issue is more mainstream than exercising and protecting the freedoms that make America unique in the history of the world.

Meet Andres Vegas. Vegas, age 46, is an honest, hard-working American. And on Jan. 4, 2007, he became a criminal defendant.

That night, Vegas was doing a dangerous job, but it's not one you'll see highlighted on cable TV. He wasn't hunting terrorists in the streets of Baghdad, fighting wildfires in the mountains of Idaho or trapping crabs in the icy waters of Alaska. In January, Andres Vegas was delivering pizzas in Milwaukee.

Vegas knew this was dangerous work. In March 2005, he was robbed. He began carrying a gun--the kind of affordable pocket pistol that gun-ban activists demonize as a "junk gun." And in July 2006, he needed it. Two masked men tried to rob Vegas, and he drew his gun and fired in self-defense, wounding an assailant and ending the attack.

After the attack, the district attorney declined to prosecute Vegas for his act of self-defense--but the DA's office did send him a letter to warn him about the legal risks of carrying a gun.

They sent him this letter because Wisconsin is one of only two states in the country that still prohibit carrying a firearm for lawful self-defense. The Wisconsin legislature has passed a Right-to-Carry bill twice to change that. Each time, anti-gun Gov. Jim Doyle has vetoed the bill, and the legislature has narrowly failed to override the veto. A change in the governor's mansion, or in just one or two seats of the state legislature, would have changed Wisconsin's law--and Andres Vegas' life.

Vegas was attacked again after getting the DA's letter. In September 2006, three men robbed him, beat him and pepper sprayed him. He tried to run, and was punched and kicked again. This time, following the DA's advice, he was unarmed.

You might think that would be enough for anyone, but Vegas needed the work and refused to give in to Milwaukee's street thugs.

That brings us to January of this year. Vegas arrived at a customer's address and--as an added precaution against ambush--called the customer to come outside for the pizza. But when Vegas got out of his car, he was approached--once again--by two armed robbers. This time, Vegas fought back. He deflected one robber's gun from his face, then drew his own pistol and shot an attacker in the hip. The robbers ran, dropping a gun. Vegas secured that gun and his own, and called the police.

This time, the Milwaukee DA's office didn't respect Vegas' decision to defend himself. Although the self-defense issue was clear, they charged him with carrying a concealed firearm.

But as we've seen, Andres Vegas isn't one to go down without a fight. With the able assistance of Milwaukee lawyer Craig Mastantuono--and, I'm proud to say, help from NRA-ILA's Office of Legislative Counsel--Vegas moved to dismiss the concealed carry charge.

Here's where another election comes in. Less than a decade ago, in November 1998, Wisconsin voters--by a 3-1 margin--approved an amendment to the state constitution, making clear that the people of Wisconsin "have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose."

Based on that provision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held in a 2003 case that a person could raise a constitutional defense against a concealed carry charge if the defendant's "interest in concealing the weapon to facilitate exercise of his or her right to keep and bear arms substantially outweigh[s] the State's interest in enforcing the concealed weapons statute," and that "concealment was the only reasonable means under the circumstances to exercise his or her right to bear arms."

That's a tough standard, and leaves Wisconsin citizens wondering where they stand. Frankly, there's no way to know in advance how your "interests" will weigh in the scales of justice. All a Wisconsin resident can do is roll the dice on the streets.

That's what Andres Vegas did in January, and on Sept. 24--more than eight months after the attack--Judge Daniel A. Noonan of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court dismissed the charge against Vegas. In a forceful opinion, Judge Noonan said Vegas had "demonstrated the requisite extraordinary circumstances" to justify carrying a concealed handgun. In fact, given the high crime area Vegas works in, the three previous attacks and Vegas' lawful purchase of the handgun for protection, Judge Noonan said he was "not convinced that there are any reasonable alternatives that would have secured Vegas' safety."

Where does this leave other Wisconsin residents? Unfortunately, because the court's decision only applies directly to Vegas, it will leave many still guessing. What jobs are dangerous enough to justify carrying a handgun? How many times does a person need to be attacked before the government will recognize his or her right to self-protection? And does a citizen need to risk arrest to answer these questions?

While the decision is a step forward that may help persuade more Wisconsin legislators to support Right-to-Carry, the political lesson is clear. In 1998, Wisconsin voters amended their constitution to protect the right to arms. Between now and 2010, they need to work, with NRA's help, to elect a governor (and more legislators) who will help them reap the full benefits of that right. As all of us gear up for the 2008 presidential election, we should remember that for honest citizens--like Andres Vegas--voting can be a matter of life or death.

IN THIS ARTICLE
Right-To-Carry
TRENDING NOW
Texas Professor Trades Geography for Drama to Protest Campus Carry in the Lone Star State

News  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Texas Professor Trades Geography for Drama to Protest Campus Carry in the Lone Star State

According to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, more than 1 in 3 Americans believe that colleges and universities exert a negative effect on the country. When respondents are grouped by political party, ...

Guns Trickle in to Australia Turn-in

News  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Guns Trickle in to Australia Turn-in

U.S. policymakers, NRA-ILA, and even some of the most ardent anti-gun researchers, have long understood that gun turn-in programs do not hinder criminal violence. Despite the overwhelming evidence, the Land Down Under is currently in ...

Stossel Report Reinforces Urgent Need for Congressional Action

Second Amendment  

Gun Laws  

News  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Stossel Report Reinforces Urgent Need for Congressional Action

Award-winning journalist John Stossel published a report this week that provides a timely reminder that – nearly a decade after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller – law abiding gun ...

Czechs File Suit Challenging EU Gun Controls

News  

Second Amendment  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Czechs File Suit Challenging EU Gun Controls

This week, the Czech Republic made good on their promise to pursue a legal challenge to the European Union’s (EU) onerous new changes to the European Firearms Directive.

Brits Vs. Guns

News  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Brits Vs. Guns

Will a society that has long turned its back on armed self-defense ever be able to find its way back?

Repudiated at the Polls, National Democrats Continue to Push Gun Control

Gun Laws  

Second Amendment  

News  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Repudiated at the Polls, National Democrats Continue to Push Gun Control

Recent weeks have seen a heated debate involving national Democratic Party figures over how to approach the issue of abortion in a manner that would allow the party to be more competitive in portions of ...

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

Gun Laws  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Guide To The Interstate Transportation Of Firearms

CAUTION: Federal and state firearms laws are subject to frequent change. This summary is not to be considered as legal advice or a restatement of law.

Flying with Firearms - Get the Facts

News  

Hunting  

Gun Laws  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Flying with Firearms - Get the Facts

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has established specific requirements for transporting firearms and ammunition in checked baggage on commercial aircraft, including the following: All firearms or ammunition must be checked with the air carrier as ...

California: Archived “Assault Weapon” Webinar and Quick Reference Guide Now Available on California Stand and Fight Website

Thursday, August 10, 2017

California: Archived “Assault Weapon” Webinar and Quick Reference Guide Now Available on California Stand and Fight Website

On August 8, the NRA and California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA) hosted a free informational webinar on the recently approved Department of Justice (DOJ) “bullet-button assault weapon" regulations.  This webinar is now available to ...

The High-Level Hypocrisy of Mayors for Gun Control

News  

Friday, August 4, 2017

The High-Level Hypocrisy of Mayors for Gun Control

Leona Helmsley, the “Queen of Mean” convicted of income tax evasion and other crimes, is famously said to have said “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.” The same sense of entitled grandeur ...

MORE TRENDING +
LESS TRENDING -
NRA ILA

Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.