MADISON, Wis. – A Wisconsin prosecutor said he won't enforce a host of state weapons laws after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week Americans have a right to own a gun for self-defense.
Jackson County District Attorney Gerald R. Fox said in a statement he will no longer prosecute Wisconsin's prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons, transporting uncased or loaded guns in vehicles, carrying guns in public buildings and taverns and carrying switchblades and butterfly knives. He said the Supreme Court's ruling renders those statutes unconstitutional.
"These so-called 'public safety' laws only put decent law-abiding citizens at a dangerous disadvantage when it comes to their personal safety, and I for one am glad that this decades-long era of defective thinking on gun issues is over," Fox wrote in the statement, released this week.
He ended the statement with "Let Freedom Ring."
Peter Hamm, a spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said he was stunned. He said Fox is inviting crime into his county and if he won't enforce the state's laws he should be removed from office.
"To announce this publicly, to tell all these would-be scofflaws they can go ahead and break the law, makes matters worse," Hamm said.
Fox, a Democrat with self-described Libertarian leanings, faces re-election in 2012. He said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press but if the Brady Campaign wants to mount a recall drive, the organization should "bring it on."
"If a majority of people want me to move on, that's the price for standing up and saying 'this is what I believe,'" Fox said.
He said he doesn't have any pending cases that would be affected by his decision and will continue to prosecute unlawful gun use, including the prohibition on felons possessing a firearm and using a gun in a crime.
Wisconsin Department of Justice spokesman Bill Cosh declined comment, saying only: "These decisions are a matter of a DA's prosecutorial discretion."
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Monday that Americans have a right to own a gun for self-defense anywhere they live. The ruling expanded the conservative court's embrace of gun rights, but it seemed unlikely to resolve questions and ongoing legal challenges.
Jackson County is a mostly rural county in west-central Wisconsin that is home to about 20,000 people. It leans Democrat, voting for presidential candidates John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008.
Donald Gilberg, chief of police in Black River Falls, the county seat, said he'll continue to enforce the city's gun ordinances that mirror the state's bans on concealed weapons, entering a bar with a gun and possessing a switchblade. Gilberg said he doesn't want a "wild west atmosphere" in his town.
"Ten minutes after publication of the district attorney's decision, every wannabe Wyatt Earp in this county will strap on their hog leg and strut about town not because they need to protect themselves, but because they can," Gilberg said in a statement. "This will have a chilling effect on the community."
But Fox, who has served in Iraq with the Wisconsin National Guard, said he believes police officers should uphold the U.S. Constitution.
"He (Gilberg) doesn't trust his neighbors to act responsibly with firearms. I do," Fox said. "In our system, when the Supreme Court speaks, all us law enforcement officers are required to salute and move out. And that's what I'm doing."