On December 17, 2018 in Madison, WI, an man openly carrying had a handgun snatched from his holster and managed to avoid being shot. In the words of noted pithy Madison Police public information officer Joel DeSpain:
"The victim said he and a buddy were just 'hanging out.' His friend was not armed, but he was. In fact, he was carrying two handguns, a long gun, and a machete type knife in a sheath this past Monday night.
"His friend would later tell police that the victim – a gun advocate – was wanting to make a statement about the right to bear arms, and had been on busy State St. a couple of times practicing 'open carry.' The friend also admitted another goal – for both of them - was to 'get girls' (phone) numbers.'
"The MPD had gotten calls from people regarding an armed man, walking State Street, but he was breaking no laws, and was not contacted. That was until he, himself, called 911.
"Another man, who has no permanent home, and is known to downtown patrol officers, had confronted the victim saying something similar to: 'Why you wanna kill people.' The gunman responded saying he was armed because it was his right, and it was for protection.
"It was around this time that the suspect closed distance between he and the victim. He grabbed and yanked a holstered handgun from the victim's body. The suspect pointed the loaded weapon at the victim, and the victim – in turn – pulled his long gun and pointed it at the suspect. It was a fluid, tense and quick standoff.
"It ended with the suspect running off, still in possession of the victim's handgun. Officers would later locate him. They recovered the stolen handgun and took the suspect into custody on a number of tentative charges."
The suspect, Melvin F. Bogus, age 39, a transient, was arrested for second degree reckless endangerment, theft, possession of firearm by felon, possession of cocaine and bail jumping.
Like the young man in Oregon who was showing off his new handgun, it’s obvious from his own words that this Madison open carrier was not your average person carrying for everyday self-defense. He had a rifle and large knife with him. Part of his stated intention was to “get girls numbers.” He was showing off—not making any serious political statement about the Second Amendment nor carrying for practical defense. This open carrier was behaving stupidly.
The details of the snatch and whether or not the holster was retention holster are unknown. Though the two did struggle over the handgun, indicating the open carrier did have some presence of mind to protect his handgun, carrying a rifle likely interfered with his ability to retain his pistol. At least he had his long-gun to point at the suspect, though it’s unclear whether or not the Mr. Bogus actually intended to harm his victim.
This incident is not evidence that open carry is ill-advised or that one is likely to be similarly victimized. Rather, this is an example of a foolish person who was not serious about his purpose and certainly not engaged in everyday defensive carry. It was a political/attention-getting stunt that backfired spectacularly. Several of the admitted factors by the victim indicate that this was very likely an amateur targeted by a slightly deranged Bogus who saw the imprudent open carrier as an easy mark. Had the open carrier not made open carry into a spectacle, this incident almost certainly would not have happened. Bogus’ remark implies the image the open carrier projected was not that of a situationally aware defensive carrier, but instead was threatening or stupid.
A person who open carriers a handgun in a secure holster for self-defense—rather than parading in public to flaunt his guns and woo the ladies—will more than likely not find himself in this situation. The carrier’s ability to retain control over his handgun and push away Bogus was likely inhibited by holding the long-gun (or at least keeping it out of the way during the struggle). However, the presence of that long-gun may have kept this from escalating.
Sorry concealed carry supremacists; this is not a 'win' for arguing open carry is dangerous. Being stupid is dangerous.
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
Western Rifle Shooters