Open carry incident leads to changes in county policy

CALUMET COUNTY – It’s a matter of state law versus county law, and what happened on one man’s video could be leading to a change for Calumet County.

Open-carry activist Bill Polster shot the video of himself walking through Calumet County Park near Lake Winnebago over the weekend.

“This is the first time I’ve actually pushed the issue,” said Polster.

Polster was carrying two guns.

“He had a sidearm, but he also had a weapon slung across his back, dressed in black,” said Chief Deputy Brett Bowe of the Calumet County Sheriff’s Office.

Two Calumet County deputies approached. One pointed a rifle at Polster. He admittedly became irate.

“Not proud of the vulgarity, but I definitely was not happy with having a rifle pointed at me,” said Polster.

“If an individual is carrying a firearm, it’s not unlikely that we’re not going to draw our firearm in preparation,” said Bowe.

The conversation turned to an 11-year-old county ordinance banning guns in the park.

The Department of Justice says gun laws have been amended to allow open carry in state parks.

County officials met and say they will change their rules. The county’s attorney will write up the new ordinance and from there it will need to be approved by county board.
For now, the sheriff’s department will not enforce the current ordinance.

“Obviously there is no hunting in the county park. Those were covered under that ordinance. We’re going to have to redo that ordinance to cover those specifically while allowing open carry,” said Bowe.

Polster said he is satisfied with the changes.

“I am hopeful that they do update the law so it is in line with the state,” said Polster.

Polster says the deputies could use more training.

“So many times we see officers responding in a way that escalates situations, instead of de-escalates,” said Polster.

But the chief deputy stands by his officers actions.

“They handled the incident appropriately. Once he understood what we were doing, he was cooperative with that, and we handled it right there,” said Bowe.

Calumet County says it will be September before the new ordinance is written. In the meantime, the open-carry advocates say they will be back at the park next week to celebrate.

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