BARABOO (WKOW) – Baraboo Common Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance that would require all gun stores within city limits to install a video surveillance system.
Police Chief Mark Schauf proposed the ordinance after a July theft at Jim’s Gun Supply. He said thieves took two guns and because there weren’t any surveillance cameras at the time, it took awhile for police to gather enough evidence to pinpoint which suspect stole the firearms.
“In the time that it took us to prove anything one of the guns disappeared into the criminal world,” he said.
Schauf said video surveillance would speed up these investigations and help officers protect the city and the stores.
“It’s common sense,” he said.
While city leaders agree the ordinance is in the best interest of public safety, Wisconsin Carry does not.
The gun advocacy group’s president Nik Clark said he learned about this case from one of his members local to the area.
Clark said this ordinance brought up a number of concerns from his members including the prospect of government-mandated surveillance in general.
“With the ratcheting up of the rhetoric, people talking about banning guns there’s a lot of people who don’t trust the government,” he said.
“I mean the government is the one person that they don’t want knowing what guns they have.”
Schauf said those concerns are unwarranted.
“It would be used the same way we use surveillance in any other store,” he said. “The video system is going to be owned by the business. It’s not owned by the police, and so for us to get copies of that we’d have to either have consent to have a copy or we’d have to have a search warrant.”
Still, Clark said mandatory surveillance is a violation of stores’ and customers rights so Wisconsin Carry is planning to sue the city of Baraboo on the grounds that the ordinance violates a Wiscconsin state statute prohibiting any local regulations about buying and selling firearms.
“What we’re seeking to do here is to protect the right of individual business owners in Baraboo and protect the rights of consumers who might be patronizing gun stores in Baraboo in the future,” he said.
Clark said Wisconsin Carry is willing to pursue this case all the way up to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
Schauf and Baraboo’s city attorney believe the ordinance will stand up in court because surveillance does not apply to the statute Wisconsin Carry is citing.
“We’re not regulating the sale we’re just providing a tool that if somebody were to be victimized later, we have the opportunity to get that video,” he said.
As for those Baraboo stores, Schauf said this ordinance would apply to three already within city limits. He said he’s been in touch with all of their owners and they’ve told him they will voluntarily comply and install security systems.
That includes Jim Astle, the owner of the store whose case led to the ordinance in the first place. He said he’s hoping to have a surveillance system in place by the end of the month.
Even so, Clark said Wisconsin Carry’s lawsuit isn’t about taking cameras away from those stores. He said they believe the choice should be left to the owners.
“If any business owner felt so inclined, that this was something they wanted to do that’s their right as a private business ,” he said. “We just didn’t want to have this imposition in place for not just existing firearm stores but future firearm stores.”