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COA – conviction for carrying a concealed gun in a car constitutionally sound

State v. Taurus Donnell Renfro, 2019AP193, 9/17/19, District 1 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Renfro was a passenger in a car stopped by the police. He was riding from his old residence to his parents’ house–he was moving in with them. When asked, he told the officers that he was carrying a gun in his pocket, and that he didn’t have a concealed-carry permit. A jury convicted him of violating Wis. Stat. § 941.23.

Postconviction and on appeal, Renfro argues that the Wisconsin Constitution’s guarantee of the right to bear arms disallows his conviction. The principal case in this area is State v. Hamdan, 2003 WI 113, 264 Wis. 2d 433, 665 N.W.2d 785. There, the supreme court held that a shop owner’s right to keep a handgun for security, and the occasional need to transport it while inside the shop, would bar his conviction for a concealed-weapons violation when he was found to be carrying the gun in his pocket, unless the state could show he had some “unlawful purpose” for doing so.

However, in State v. Fisher, 2006 WI 44, ¶32, 290 Wis. 2d 121, 714 N.W.2d 495, the supreme court also said the right was strongest in a person’s own home or business, and would not, absent “extraordinary circumstances,” overcome the state’s interest in regulation of firearms when a person is instead carrying inside a vehicle. Per the court of appeals, this means Renfro cannot prevail unless he can show he “reasonably believed that he was actually confronted with the threat of great bodily harm or death and that carrying a concealed weapon was necessary for his protection” (¶11). It holds the facts here–Renfro was moving from a high-crime area and there had been a shooting next door some months earlier–couldn’t create such a belief. (¶13).


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