The Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty (WILL) has reached a settlement with the Housing Authority of the City of Menomonie after it challenged the agency’s lease provision banning its residents from keeping firearms in their homes.
On behalf of Tom Chapin, a U.S. veteran, gun-owner, and resident of the Housing Authority of the City of Menomonie, WILL argued the lease provision violates the Second Amendment.
The authority prohibited Chapin from keeping firearms in his own home, forcing him to pay for safe storage of his legal firearms off site, or find a new place to live.
In a May 2019 letter to the Housing Authority, WILL Deputy Counsel Tom Kamenick wrote, in part, “We are aware of no ban on firearm ownership by residents of public housing that has survived a legal challenge. The Authority’s ban plainly violates the constitutional rights of Mr. Chapin and all other residents of the Authority’s housing.”
Upon receipt of WILL’s letter, the city housing authority agreed to stop enforcing the gun ban and to remove the ban from all leases by April 2020. A formal agreement was signed on Sept. 13.
“This case is, unfortunately, not an isolated incident,” WILL notes.
Similar gun bans in public housing have been successfully challenged in Illinois, California and Delaware, Eugene Volokh points out in Reason Magazine.
In April 2019, Doe v. East St. Louis Housing Authority, the court ruled that the East St. Louis, Illinois, Housing Authority could not take “any action to enforce any provisions in the ESLHA Lease … [barring] residents who are permitted under Illinois [and local and federal] law to possess firearms, from possessing functional firearms that are legal in their jurisdiction for self-defense and defense of others in their residences.”
The court said “the Second Amendment protects the right of a law-abiding individual to possess functional firearms in his or her home for lawful purposes, most notably for self-defense and defense of family.” iIt also cited Fourteenth Amendment protections.
A 2014 Delaware Supreme Court decision held that public housing tenants have a right to bear arms under the Delaware Constitution's right to bear arms provision, Volokh notes.
"A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and State, and for hunting and recreational use," even in common areas of the building, the court found.
WILL encourages public housing residents to review their lease agreements for unconstitutional gun bans.
“Citizens do not have to give up their constitutional rights based on where they decide to live,” Kamenick said.