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Even in a city repeatedly scarred by senseless fatal shootings -- a 10-year-old girl caught in the crossfire at a playground, a toddler struck by a bullet aimed at the wrong house -- this case stood out:
A man driving his van in Milwaukee late on a Sunday afternoon struck and killed a 2-year-old boy who had darted into the street. He jumped out of the vehicle immediately and was grieving as he stood over the body. Moments later, a gunman, apparently enraged about the accident, shot the 40-year-old driver to death. But he also fatally wounded a 15-year-old, the toddler’s brother, who had rushed to the scene.
Reacting to the incident, Mayor Tom Barrett linked increases in fatal and non-fatal shootings in Milwaukee with gun laws. In turn, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. criticized the mayor, saying Barrett was blaming concealed carry permit holders for more guns being on the street.
Then, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, while speaking to reporters on April 14, 2015, two days after the accident and double-shooting, responded to the sheriff.
"We're the only place I know," Flynn said, referring to Wisconsin, "where it's a misdemeanor to carry a gun illegally, but a felony for a second rap for carrying pot. Would you tell me how that makes sense?
"Second arrest for carrying pot is a felony. Second, third, fourth, 10th arrest for carrying a gun illegally is a misdemeanor. Is it any wonder these knuckleheads out there with guns aren't learning a lesson from getting locked up by us?"
Is Flynn right about the Wisconsin laws?
Except for some clarification, yes.
Carrying marijuana -- for a second offense and subsequent offenses -- is, in fact, a felony crime. But that doesn't necessarily mean a felony charge will be filed.
Prosecutors generally have discretion in charging. So, while someone with a clean criminal record who is caught a second time carrying a marijuana joint technically has committed a felony offense, a prosecutor might decide to only issue a ticket.
It’s also worth noting that carrying marijuana can be a felony on a first offense -- if you’re carrying with the intent to deliver, for instance.
(Coincidentally, the day before Flynn made his claim, state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, announced she would introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in Wisconsin. With Republicans controlling both houses of the Legislature, the measure has virtually no chance of passing.)
Wisconsin legalized the concealed carry of guns and other weapons in 2011. Carrying a concealed gun without a state-issued concealed carry license is a misdemeanor, for the first offense and for any subsequent offenses.
It’s worth noting that someone convicted of any misdemeanor on three separate occasions within five years can be sentenced to more time behind bars. So, someone convicted of carrying a concealed gun illegally could be punished more if they are also convicted of two other misdemeanors, whether gun-related or not, within five years.
In addition, for certain people, carrying a gun is a felony on the first offense. That includes convicted felons and people who are subject to an injunction such as a domestic violence restraining order.
Flynn said that in Wisconsin, a "second arrest for carrying pot is a felony," but a second or subsequent arrest "for carrying a gun illegally is a misdemeanor."
A second arrest for carrying marijuana is classified as a felony offense, although depending on the circumstances, only a ticket might be issued.
And generally a first or subsequent offense for carrying a gun illegally is a misdemeanor -- although for some people, such as convicted felons, a first offense is a felony.
For a statement that is accurate but needs clarification, our rating is Mostly True.
To comment on this item, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s web page.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, video of Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn speaking to reporters, April 14, 2015
Interview, Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Joy Hammond, April 14, 2015
Email exchange, Wisconsin Department of Justice Director of Communications and Public Affairs Anne Schwartz, April 14, 2015
Email exchange, Milwaukee police Lt. Mark Stanmeyer, April 14, 2015
Wisconsin Legislature, Uniform Controlled Substances Act
Wisconsin Legislature, Crimes Against Public Health and Safety -- Carrying Concealed Weapon
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