MADSON, Wis. ( Associated Press) — A disorderly conduct conviction cannot disqualify someone from obtaining a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Wisconsin, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday in a unanimous decision that dramatically broadened which can carry hidden firearms, knives and stun guns.
The court found that disorderly conduct is not an offense of domestic violence under federal law and therefore does not disqualify a person from holding a concealed carry license.
Justice Jill Karofsky, a member of the court’s liberal minority, agreed, but in a different opinion called on legislators to close a “dangerous loophole” that would allow domestic abusers to carry hidden weapons. MPs introduced a bipartisan bill a year ago that would have absorbed the language but it was never heard.
“While legally correct, this result is as meaningless as it is dangerous,” Karofsky wrote. “When a domestic abuse perpetrator, who has been threatened with death or engaged in any other type of domestic violence, has access to a gun, the fatality risk to his victim increases significantly.”
The case revolves around Daniel Doubeck of Green Bay. According to court documents, Doubeck broke into his estranged wife’s trailer in Door County in 1993 and waved a board and made threats. He was eventually convicted of disorderly conduct.
The state Justice Department granted Doubeck a concealed carry permit in 2016, five years after he was carrying a concealed weapon in Wisconsin. The agency revoked his license in 2019 after an audit that revealed a punishment for his disorderly conduct.
Federal law prohibits states from issuing concealed carry permits to people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. The Justice Department found that Wisconsin’s disorderly conduct statute qualifies as domestic violence as defined under the federal code.
Doubeck sued to regain his permit, arguing that Wisconsin’s disorderly conduct statute did not match the federal definition of domestic violence as misdemeanor. The federal definition requires “the use or attempt to use corporal force.” But the state disorderly statute does not refer to the use of force, defining disorderly conduct as violent, abusive, indecent, profane or other undefined conduct that causes disturbance, they argued.
A judge in Green Bay upheld the license revocation, but Doubeck appealed. The Second District Court of Appeals referred the matter directly to the state Supreme Court without ruling on it.
Writing for the majority, Justice Brian Hegorn held that a disorderly conduct conviction in Wisconsin cannot disqualify someone from holding a concealed carry license in the state.
“In short, the offense of disorderly conduct… could serve as the basis,” Hegdorn wrote. “It is therefore not a domestic violence offense under federal law.”
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul said the decision would allow more perpetrators of domestic violence to own guns.
“As the consensus of Justice Karofsky suggests, this outcome is alarming, especially for victims of domestic violence,” Kaul said in a statement. “The legislature must act immediately to close this loophole and protect public safety.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Gillian Drummond did not immediately respond to a follow-up message, asking if the agency had any estimates of how many disorderly conduct offenders would now be eligible for a permit.
John Monroe, a Georgia attorney who specializes in gun rights cases, represented Doubeck. He said that he is happy with the decision. He acknowledged that domestic abuse is a serious problem, but added that if prosecutors do not want violent abusers to have concealed weapons, they should charge them with violent crimes such as battery.
Jerry Bonavia, executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, which works to prevent gun violence, called the decision “terrible.” She added that victims of domestic abuse now find themselves at even greater risk due to legal technicalities.
“(Judges) are re-arming domestic abusers,” she said.
And Domestic Abuse Wisconsin executive director Monique Minkens pointed to a report compiled by her organization in 2020 that found guns were used in 52% of domestic violence cases and that the decision would only lead to more shootings.
“It is beyond a doubt that Wisconsin victims of domestic violence will be violently – and in many cases, fatally – affected by the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision to extend covert carry permits,” she said.
Neither group had any estimates of how many people with disorderly conduct would now be eligible for permits. Jim Santell, who served as a US attorney in Milwaukee during the Obama administration and now serves as vice chairman of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Efforts Board, said the numbers are likely to be “significant.”
“It certainly goes far beyond the case involving Mr Doubeck here,” Sentel said.
A bipartisan group of legislators introduced a bill in May 2021 that would include disorderly conduct as part of the definition of domestic violence in state law, reflecting federal language and prohibiting people convicted of disorderly conduct from obtaining concealed carry licenses. will effectively stop.
The Republican chair of the Assembly and Senate criminal justice committees, Rep. John Spiros and Sen. Van Van Vanggaard, never heard of the measure and died when the two-year legislative session ended last March. The aides of both the MLAs did not immediately return the message on Friday.
“If legislators don’t take action, this kind of bad thing happens,” Sentel said. “Today is not a day to be proud of our government which cannot do what it can to keep us safe.”