Open-carry protestor Mark Scheffler of Appleton carries a chicken as he talks with Deputy Chief Olm of the Appleton Police Department Saturday, September 21, 2013, at the Downtown Appleton Farm Market. / Ron Page/Post-Crescent Media
Appleton’s Mark Scheffler figured he’d eventually find a $263.50 ticket in his mailbox after flouting the city ordinance by carrying a live chicken last month through the downtown farmers market.
But police never cited him. Even if they had, Scheffler said it would simply have been the cost of spreading a message that traveled farther than he anticipated.
“The response was overwhelming — locally, statewide and even at the national level,” he said.
Scheffler brought the chicken to the Sept. 21 farmers market on College Avenue to highlight what he considers absurdity in the state’s gun laws that became a local issue in early September when two men were briefly detained as the headed toward the farmers market while openly carrying AR-15 rifles. Internet chat rooms lit up after one of the men posted video footage of the incident, and many open-carry supporters criticized police for violating Second Amendment rights.
A city ordinance, meanwhile, prohibits carrying chickens in the downtown, and Scheffler decided to test enforcement of the rule. When he tried to walk to the market with a live chicken, police intercepted him and asked him to leave. Nearby, a couple of men who were openly carrying guns were free to stay.
Scheffler said he received significant attention after his display at the farmers market. He said he was emboldened to learn how many people, regardless of political views, agree that guns have no place at crowded venues.
He’s taken dozens of calls — ranging from everyday folks to corporate leaders to mayors of other cities.
Scheffler said he also took some ribbing from business colleagues who were surprised to see him in news reports with a hen in hand, but he said it was worth the teasing.
“Our whole goal was to raise awareness,” he said.
The men who are making their point about open carry also are out to raise awareness.
Charles Branstrom, one of the two men detained by police in early September, was on College Avenue on Monday with an AR-15. He was there is response to an event in support of expanded background checks. He came out to offer an opposing view.
Branstrom thinks people might not react so viscerally if they understood gun rights and saw guns in public more frequently.
But there’s a right time and place for such a demonstration, Scheffler maintains.
Scheffler said he’s spoken to State Rep. Penny Bernard-Schaber, D-Appleton, about changing the state’s open carry law. He’s concerned with a loophole that allows for open carry near schools as long as the gun carrier has a concealed weapons permit.
As for the fine, Scheffler surmises police made a judgment call. He was stopped short of the farmers market that day and politely left when asked.
It isn’t a matter of banning guns, he said. “We want gun laws that are reasonable.”
— Jim Collar: 920-993-1000, ext. 216, or email@example.com; On Twitter @JimCollar