The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled [opinion, pdf] on Tuesday that a concealed carry permit is required in order to lawfully transport a loaded gun in a car.
In 2014, police stopped Brian Grandberry as a part of a traffic stop. Upon questioning Grandberry, police discovered that he did not have a concealed carry license, and that he was carrying a loaded semi-automatic pistol in the glove compartment of his car.
Grandberry claimed that he was following Wisconsin’s Safe Transport Statute and that this statute was in conflict with the Concealed Carry Statute [texts] because “the same conduct placing [namely] a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle” can comply with the former and violate the latter. He urged the Supreme Court to find that “a person in compliance with the Safe Transport Statute cannot, as a matter of law, violate” the Concealed Carry Statute.
However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court found that the statutes do not conflict. In reaching this conclusion, the court distinguished between the precise meanings of “carry,” “within reach” and “grab area” as used in prior cases, declining Grandberry’s attempt to use federal Fourth Amendment “grab area” jurisprudence as a basis for his argument.
To define “within reach” in the same way the United States Supreme Court defines “grab area” is to: (1) assign a definition to “within reach” that was not and could not have been intended when the term was first used;18 (2) confuse two entirely separate and distinct areas of the law; and (3) lead naturally to the illegal usurpation of the role of the jury.
Noting that “no part of a motor vehicle is, as a matter of law, within reach,” but that “defining what areas of a motor vehicle are within reach has been, is now, and (absent legislative amendment) will continue to be a question to be resolved on a case-by-case basis by finders of fact and by courts reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in particular cases,” the Court found that there are “at least two reasonable means” of complying with both statutes. First, a citizen may obtain a concealed carry license. Second, a citizen may place their firearms out of reach.