Safety and Training

Lessons Learned: Open Carry Gone Awry

Melvin Bogus after stealing a handgun

On December 17, at about 7 p.m. on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin, a 21-year-old open carrier and his friend were hanging out. It was well below freezing. Heavy coats, hats, and gloves were indicated. State Street runs from the University of Wisconsin to the State Capitol. It is about nine blocks long, and usually crowded with pedestrians, many of which are students. There are numerous bars and restaurants, as well as the Student Union and Memorial Library, Library Mall, and the Wisconsin Historical Society near the west end of the street.

The 21-year-old open carrier was from the nearby town of Black Earth. The Second Amendment activist had a shotgun, two pistols, and a large knife/machete. He was attempting to make political points while hoping to strike acquaintance with some women, maybe get some phone numbers.

First, let’s understand the type people who walk among us. They are the danger that makes us carry a firearm for self-defense.

Melvin Bogus, 39, no permanent address, well known to police, was also hanging out on State Street. He wasn’t supposed to be there.

Melvin Bogus after stealing a handgun
Handgun snatcher on State Street, Madison, WI

There is an arrest record for a prior inmate named Melvin F. Bogus from 2006. That inmate would be 39 this year. It may be the same person. There is a record of a Melvin F. Bogus of the same age, who was convicted of second degree robbery in 2010. The same Bogus or another Melvin Bogus, without permanent address, who is also 39 years old, on State Street in Madison, was charged with substantial battery and bail jumping on October 23, 2018—two months before this incident. The 54-year-old victim had to get stitches for a head wound. In that case, the officers were able to solve the crime using surveillance video, similar to the pistol snatching case in December.

Melvin Bogus’ first attorney, on 24 October was Crystal A. Vera.

At the status conference on 5 November, Bogus had a different attorney, David S. Knoll. Bogus was granted bond on 8 November, 2018
One of the conditions of Bogus’ bond was that he not be on State St. in Madison. From wicourts.gov:

CASH BOND AMENDED – $250 PER CASE. – Defendant shall not have any contact, direct or indirect, with FRH or VC. – Defendant shall not be on State St in Madison.

Knoll must have had a disagreement with his client, because he withdrew from the case on 10 December. Bogus had a third attorney, Mark Frank, appointed as public defender.

Then, on 17 December, just a week later, Bogus was recorded snatching a pistol from the open carrier and pointing it at him. From madison.com:

The friend said the victim, a gun advocate, wanted to make a statement about the right to bear arms and had been on busy State Street a couple of times practicing open carry,” DeSpain said. “The friend also admitted they were Downtown to get girls’ phone numbers.”

Bogus, who is known to Downtown patrol officers, confronted the man saying something like, “Why you wanna kill people?” DeSpain said. “The man with guns responded by saying he was armed because it was his right and it was for protection.”

Bogus then closed the distance between the two, getting close enough to grab a holstered handgun from the armed man, DeSpain said.

Bogus “pointed the loaded weapon at the victim, and the victim, in turn, pulled out his long gun and pointed it” at Bogus, DeSpain said. “It was a fluid, tense, and quick standoff.

Bogus ran off with the man’s gun, DeSpain said. Officers found him and recovered the stolen handgun, taking Bogus into custody on several tentative charges.

Some of the tentative charges against Bogus were bail jumping, carrying a concealed weapon, strong arm robbery, felon in possession of a firearm, reckless endangerment, and possession of cocaine.

If you are going to practice open carry, as a Second Amendment advocate, some preparation is in order. Think about the possibility of someone snatching a pistol. Training on avoiding, preventing, and actively stopping disarms is advisable.

Most open carriers have some sort of retaining device, perhaps travel in groups, to guard against exactly such a possibility. If there is more than one person, discussion of what tactics to use is common. Often, an unarmed member of the group will be a designated camera/video man.

Practice situational awareness. Have a plan on how to prevent a disarm attempt. Use of a retention holster is a good idea. As the purpose of the political action is political awareness, It is not necessary for all the guns to be loaded. Be particularly aware of people “closing the distance”. Mr. Bogus practiced what Marc MacYoung calls the interview, as a way to evaluate his intended victim.

There are plenty of convicted, career criminals/ mental cases/ drug addicts, similar to Mr. Bogus. You need to think about them, and how you will respond in a confrontation.

Mr. Bogus is very lucky he did not end up dead. The armed standoff only lasted a couple of seconds. No one fired. Perhaps Bogus had no intention of firing. Perhaps he had no understanding of the snatched pistol’s controls.

Melvin Bogus, Dane County Sheriff's Department booking photo
Melvin Bogus from Dane County Sheriff’s Department

Both participants were lucky. The open carrier did not justifiably shoot and kill Mr. Bogus. Even in deep blue Madison, with everything on video, he likely would not have been charged. He will get his pistol back. If he had to shoot Mr. Bogus, it would have been a long, nasty, time consuming process. People have a difficult time when they kill someone, even when justified.

Mr. Bogus will spend the rest of this (and likely more) winters in a warm Wisconsin jail and/or prison, where he will get three hots a day. It may be a better existence than he had on the street.

Snatches of pistols from open carriers are exceedingly rare. There are seven I can recall in the last ten years. One was in Milwaukee in 2010. One was in Oregon in 2014 (unloaded pistol, by law). One was in Washington State in 2015, (unsuccessful). There was one in Virginia in 2016 (after dark, before moonrise). One was in Phoenix, Arizona in 2016. Another was in North Carolina in 2017. Now there is one in Madison, Wisconsin (pistol quickly recovered).

There seem to be about as many pistols snatched from concealed carriers, who are pounced because their attackers do not know they are carrying, and consider them an unarmed mark. One concealed permit holder had a pistol taken from him. He chased the pistol thief, and was shot and killed. Some might argue that it was almost open carry, because the thief noticed the pistol when it was supposed to be concealed. Unfortunately, I have not recovered that link.

I have not found a single case where a pistol was taken from an open carrier, and the carrier was shot with their own pistol. This case in Madison is the closest.

The Madison police had a talk with the young open carry Second Amendment advocate. They stated he had the right to open carry. It was a refreshing change from 8 years ago when the Madison Police Department charged open carriers with obstruction of a peace officer and disorderly conduct for legally open carrying at a Culver’s restaurant. The police settled out of court.

The police talked to the young Second Amendment advocate about how lucky he was in this case.

Open carry is legal in 45 states. 15 of those require a permit. There are more than 17 million people with concealed carry permits. Most of those are legally able to openly carry where they can concealed carry.

12-13 states have Constitutional Carry, where no permit is required for either open or concealed carry, just as it was when the Bill of Rights was ratified.

Attacks on open carriers may be rare because of tactical deterrence. Most criminals do not wish to attack an armed person. There are easier prey about.

Most open carriers (the many I have met) are more careful than the youthful Second Amendment advocate looking to meet some girls on State Street. The advocate learned a valuable lesson. He will likely have a plan to prevent disarms in the future. A simple retention holster would have kept this disarm from being successful.

Do you carry openly? How would you prevent someone from grabbing your firearm when open carrying? What lessons can be learned from this incident? Share your answers in the comment section.

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Comments (54)

  1. I have been carrying for 30 years or so CONCEALED! I would not carry openly unless hunting or in a group activity of some sort. Why do I think it is not a good idea to carry openly? Because it gives away a huge advantage of SURPRISE if we talking self-defense! I don’t need to make a statement and don’t carry to solve a problem. I use my head first and then disengage. When the situation does not allow other options I would use my firearm.

  2. Maybe it’s a little far out, but has anyone seen fake pistols that can’t be distinguished from a real gun without very close examination.
    Perhaps if you open carried one of those & also had a real one concealed. Wouldn’t that be a shock to someone taking your fake gun giving you time to show real your real one??

  3. Why can’t modern technology be used? Fingerprint readers or magnetic rings to prevent unauthorized users. And a hardened tether attached to you and the gun deters snatch and runs even if the owner is physically overwhelmed. Just don’t attach something worth being kidnapped/killed for to yourself.

    1. Fingerprint readers can fail, leaving your firearm useless when you need it. A tether prevents your spouse or your friend or partner from using your weapon if you are incapcitated and they need it.

    2. I Understand, all technology can fail, Bullets can misfire but that doesn’t happen very often, how often does that “next generation” reader fail? Compare with how often people are shot with their own gun, when the numbers meet, you play the odds. Plus you have to consider if it is more important to prevent unauthorized use than to allow authorized use.
      Tethers don’t prevent anyone from using the gun, only from running away with it. It’s not tied to your hand, a thinish steel cable attached to the pistol and a harness or belt you wear. (I’d want a spring loaded reel to take up slack as I holstered, but there would have to be at least 3 feet of tether to work with.) So your ally can stand or kneel over you and defend you, or lay behind you and use you for cover, hmm. All assuming the gun is not already empty and the allies are not armed themselves.

    3. S&W had a great idea with their internal locks on their revolvers. If you don’t believe me just ask Ruger. They’re revolver sales skyrocketed after that.

      The truth is that “technology” does fail. How often is up for debate. It only takes once if it is at that crucial time. If you are gonna play the odds, why carry at all. Odds are you will never need a firearm to defend yourself. Me, I am not a betting man. I very much prefer every advantage I can get.

      For the tether. If I have my pistol tethered to me and am incapacitated, and my wife needs my pistol to defend herself, I want her to be able to take it and be mobile, not tethered to me, lying behind some cover, or out in the open. That goes for a string tether or a “new technology” tether such as a ring a pendant. Also, a physical tether like your wire may get snagged on something, pulling the pistol out of your hand. Or worse, if in the heat of battle, if your finger happens to be on the trigger, BANG. If you want that option I feel that you should be able to have it. Please don’t force it on me though.

    4. S&W had a great idea with their internal locks on their revolvers. If you don’t believe me just ask Ruger. Their revolver sales skyrocketed after that.

      The truth is that “technology” does fail. How often is up for debate. It only takes once if it is at that crucial time. If you are gonna play the odds, why carry at all. Odds are you will never need a firearm to defend yourself. Me, I am not a betting man. I very much prefer every advantage I can get.

      For the tether. If I have my pistol tethered to me and am incapacitated, and my wife needs my pistol to defend herself, I want her to be able to take it and be mobile, not tethered to me, lying behind some cover, or out in the open. That goes for a string tether or a “new technology” tether such as a ring a pendant. Also, a physical tether like your wire may get snagged on something, pulling the pistol out of your hand. Or worse, if in the heat of battle, if your finger happens to be on the trigger, BANG. If you want that option I feel that you should be able to have it. Please don’t force it on me though.

  4. I try to keep my body in front of the gun and in blocking my would be attacker. Always look at someone as a potential adversary. I know that sounds terrible, but it is what it is now day. Always keep your retention strap snapped or in an active position to prevent unwanted removal of the weapon in the holster.
    ALWAYS carry concealed. Do not advertise what you are carrying. Don’t invite your attacker.

    1. To quote General Mattis; “be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” It is truly sad that the same advise given to troops in Iraq is equally applicable in the “land of the free.”

  5. I compare it to the people I see wearing (sagging) their pants down below their butt. It’s their right, and they are not hurtimg anyone, but it leaves a bad impression of themselves. With the pressure that is being demonstrated to limit/take away our 2A rights we do not need to bring any negative attention to ourselves. And don’t tell me it’s not negative, because to the people we are offending it is negative. And thode people vote. We need to persuade the people that we are not a threat to them. Don’t be a sagger. Lol.

  6. “It is not necessary for all the guns to be loaded.”

    And I’d suggest, if you are carrying it, that it is necessary, and prudent to have it loaded. It’s foolhardy to open carry an unloaded weapon–outside of a pistol range.

    I concur that the victim in this story wasn’t using a lot of common sense and most certainly, if not concealed, should have worn a retention holster.

  7. At this time I think open carry is inviting this kind of trouble!

    I recently saw an older gentleman carrying a pistol in a shoulder holster OVER a flannel shirt ,and walking alone, slowly and unsteadily with a cane in the local Walmart store!
    Asking for trouble ?

    1. He may just be confused. Like the elderly genleman I saw wearing his underpants over his trousers.

  8. Fortunately I live in Idaho which is a Constitutional Carry state. I do not practice open carry unless I am working around my own property and concerned about furry critters with fangs and claws. When I carry concealed I don’t want to advertise the fact that I have a gun. I think its better to have a nasty surprise for anyone who’s trying to be trouble. I believe in the old axiom “Always be polite and respectful but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

  9. When in high volume public areas, most months I normally carry concealed with an OWB holster under an unzipped light wind breaker but if passers-by happen to see that I’m am carrying so be it. Bottom-line, I’m not looking for the extra attention so rarely do I open carry. There are enough idiots out there like Bogus who just want to start trouble. Carrying concealed, scumbags like Bogus will find out the hard way.

  10. One of the many reasons I prefer a slung long gun for Open Carry… It’s next to impossible to end up with it pointed at you, even if you fail the situational awareness test. Which you shouldn’t if you’re Open Carrying… I favor bullpups for fast draw, which also means retention. KSG preferred.

    1. A shotgun, two pistols, and a machete/knife? This does not make a good political statement. I have a conceal carry permit and I support the right to open carry; but going dressed in public as member of a SWAT team going into action gives the impression of a bad ass bully looking for a fight. Unfortunately, this is the impression many legislators have of gun owners and advocates. If we are to change their opinion we must convince them that we are good law abiding members of the community.

    2. I like your logic.

      As an afterthought, using a sling would make it near impossible for someone to easily take it away from you.

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