The term posse comitatus is Latin for "power of the county." It originally referred to the legal authority of a County Sheriff to conscript civilians into an ad hoc militia for law enforcement purposes.
When capitalized, Posse Comitatus also refers to a far-right militia movement that believes that the County Sheriff is the ultimate law of the land. Posse groups sprang up all over the country after the Watergate era. Wisconsin's own merry band of outlaws had their Sherwood Forest in Shawano County, around the community of Tigerton. While there was some variation in Posse groups around the country, most were Christian Identity activists.
While the Posse Comitatus largely disappeared from public awareness after most of its leaders were imprisoned in the '80s, their underlying legal philosophy -- that County-level law enforcement trumps State and Federal laws -- is making a political comeback.
A few months ago, Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth sent a letter to several school districts warning them not to comply with the new State law requiring that public schools with sex education programs teach students about contraceptives.
This week, Jackson County District Attorney Gerald Fox is pretending to be a constitutional scholar, claiming that the Supreme Court's recent decision in McDonald v. Chicago "immediately renders some of Wisconsin's current laws unconstitutional". Apparently, there is no need for the courts to decide which regulations are reasonable; Gerald Fox has already declared the following to be unenforceable:
Section 167.31, prohibiting uncased or loaded firearms in vehicles;
Section 941.23, prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons, including firearms;
Section 941.235, prohibiting the possession of firearms in public buildings;
Section 941.237, prohibiting the possession of firearms in establishments where alcohol may be sold or served; and,
Section 941.24, prohibiting the possession of knives that open with a button, or by gravity, or thrust, or movement.
So, Wisconsin's gun nuts need only move to Jackson County, where they can throw their uncased, loaded gun in their vehicle before driving over bumpy back roads, then carry a concealed gun or switchblade into a courthouse or bar. While Black River Falls police chief Don Gilberg says he will still enforce state and local laws, J. B. Van Hollen calls such decisions "a matter of prosecutorial discretion."
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