Brief

Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds gun conviction, but Bradley insists on right to get drunk and carry firearms

By: - May 4, 2021 3:11 pm
person in jeans holding a hand gun behind his back taken from behind

handgun creative by Getty Images

In a 6-1 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the conviction of a Madison man who was intoxicated while he carried a firearm through his apartment after getting into an argument with his roommates and their friends. 

But in a dissent, Justice Rebecca Bradley made a full-throated defense of the man’s Second Amendment right to get drunk, fight with his roommates and guests and tell them they’re going to get a “a f—ing face full of lead” while carrying a gun.

The case stems from a 2018 incident in which Mitchell Christen was drinking with his roommates when an argument started, ultimately ending with Christen showing his handgun to a houseguest, carrying the handgun in the waistband of his underwear in the home’s kitchen and, after the handgun was taken from him, cocking a shotgun in his room. Christen was convicted of violating a Wisconsin law that prohibits a person from operating or being armed with a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant. 

The majority of the court upheld the jury’s decision that Christen had not acted in self-defense when he carried the firearm while intoxicated and affirmed the appellate court’s decision that the law did not infringe on his Second Amendment right.

“Because the jury here found Christen guilty of operating or going armed with a firearm while intoxicated, the jury had to conclude that he was intoxicated and ‘less able to exercise the clear judgment and steady hand necessary to handle a firearm,’” Justice Annette Ziegler wrote in the majority opinion joined by Justices Patience Roggensack, Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky. Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote a concurring opinion. 

But Rebecca Bradley’s dissent argues that the majority decision “erodes a fundamental freedom.” 

“Wherever standing armies are kept up, and the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any colour or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction,” Bradley writes, quoting a 19th century writer. 

Her opinion focuses on her belief that the right to bear arms is most protected inside a person’s home and the state does not have the ability to restrict it. 

“The majority never addresses Christen’s argument that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms in the home in case of confrontation, whether intoxicated or sober,” she writes. “It does.”

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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.

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