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.


Sale ends July 21, 2019


Sale ends July 21, 2019


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 agree! As a retired LEO I would be wary for anyone (besides myself and on duty LEO’s) having a weapon. Simply because I don’t know the individual. As such I would be constantly keeping them in sight and beware where they are and what they do. This would keep me in “Yellow” and even slightly “RED” if you know what I mean!

    1. I am so tired of leo’s saying “I don’t know the individual,” therefore everyone else should be disarmed, “for their safety and mine.” Well, here’s news for all leo’s. We citizens don’t know you either, and just because you have a police uniform on, does not make you 100% trustworthy. We hear of cops shooting unarmed people so often, I am wary of cops whenever and where ever I encounter them.

      I carry concealed 100% of the time where legal. No sense advertising I have a firearm. As others have opined, let it be a tactical surprise.

  2. I open carry. I carry a pistol which requires you to disarm one of the safety’s to fire it. I am former military and before that carried a gun my who life. Sad as it may be everyone around you IS a potential threat. Situational awareness is essential now days, I am also older now, but open carrying has put an end to the constant stops by people asking for money which is sometimes a precursor to a robbery, I also carry a form fitted custom holster, there is no yanking my 45 from the holster for any position other than by me drawing it.

  3. I’m in Florida, a CC state, and smartly so.
    Open carry by ordinary citizens is (to me) a dumb idea. Because of the fact that you will become a target.
    Just like the dummy that walks around with the heavy, diamond encrusted gold jeweler to show off, a gun is a criminal magnet.
    Better to have a compact carry pistol well hidden on you so that nobody will see you carrying a firearm until you need to pull it out.

  4. A few years ago my sister-in-law and I were walking to the store in our VERY small town. We had recently sent an article to local paper about speeding in our neighborhood, but without running it past the local PD (a speeder had hit and killed our SAR canine while on an urban tactical training exercise). While walking on the sidewalk a local LEO pulled up and asked my sister-in -law her name (she just wanted to talk about the article). We moved into a ‘combat spread’ formation (apart but at fingertip touching distance and angled to cover 240 degrees or so). The officer wisely did not leave her vehicle until ascertaining who we were and informing us that she was just there to talk, not arrest or hassle. We eased apart about another foot or so as she exited her car, but we relaxed our stance slightly, deflating the LEO’s tension somewhat.

    Neither of us were carrying at the time, but we both have had experience in various forms of self defense, tactical unarmed combat and other forms of ‘stuff’. The LEO asked us afterwards what made us go into the ‘spread’. We just told her that when confronted out of the blue, we ALWAYS moved to a defensive posture, ready fight, flee, or simply kick the ass(es) of those that have chosen to end their lives on that day…lol. We had discussed this amongst ourselves and knew our state of awareness intimately and could tell without a glance what the other was going to do in almost any given situation.

    Nowadays, we both carry concealed, and have other instruments of damage dealing that are not firearm related, on us at all times. THIS is why local LEO’s sometimes use us as training for rookie officers. They learn quick that two older looking (middle aged) people that are casually walking along, looking like typical, possible, likely even, victims can be anything but.

  5. As a retired cop of 28 years, I would never recommend open carry. Why tempt a nutjob? Almost anyone, with the right pretense can get near enough to you to take a handgun out of a holster, although good holsters can prevent this. But they can also prevent you from getting your gun out them when needed. I carry a Glock 19, the small Taser handgun, and a NAA derringer in a pocket or my boot. All concealed. I’ve grown to not even realize I’m carrying them. But stilll in post civilized libtard Amerika, I still don’t feel 100% secure.

  6. So the guy walks around armed to the teeth to make a statement and to pick up chicks, then finds himself getting disarmed and almost killed. This is yet another reason why u shouldn’t open carry your rifles and handguns at public places just to “make a statement.” When will people realize that walking around looking like you’re going to be the next mass shooter doesn’t help the 2nd amendment cause. You just provide fuel for the antis. I believe in the right to bear arms. I also recognize that it is a responsibility. Respect it or leave your toys at home.

  7. The more I hear about the stupid things people do to meet girls/boys, the more I think the older cultures had it right with arranged marriages in childhood.

  8. While I realize that open carry is legal, i question it’s wisdom for a few . reasons. First, the possibility of this type of scenario, i.e. a gun snatch. Second, the loss of tactical advantage in an active shooter encounter; I would much rather such a criminal NOT know that I was armed, giving me the element of surprise. Third, I believe that is just bad PR for gun owners/carriers. In some locales, no problem. But in big, blue cities, the desire to make a political statement will most likely be a situation of “preaching to the choir”, convincing no anti-gunners to join our ranks but instead further angering and scaring them and convincing them that all gun owners are obnoxious rednecks. Additionally, those on the fence may be pushed off the the left side due to being intimidated by open carry; they start out ignorant and without prejudice, and many are rattled by the up close and personal presence of a firearm toted by a person without a uniform. I carry, and have for years, and will continue as long as I can. In rural areas, hinting, on my own property, I sometimes carry openly, but not in public . My 2 cents.

    1. I was in line behind two older ladies at a check out a couple of years ago. The two ladies were talking gun control and how having guns around made for a very unsafe environment. They were talking quite loudly and I could see other patrons looking, rolling eyes and shaking heads. As they finished paying for their goodies, I took off my light windbreaker, going from concealed to open carry. My state is a CC and Open Carry state. My 1911 was quite visible. I greeted the two ladies, saying, “Ladies, have a good day. We were all safe today. Stay safe.” They both saw my OWB holstered firearm, looked at each other and huffed away. I got smiles from the other patrons, the cashier, and I even got one, “Good one!”

  9. any count how many guns grabbed from police officers,sadly many have been shot or killed with there own weapon fl has a bad part of our law you can open carry hunting and fishing and to and from the site. but with a concealed carry permit. the weapon must be 100% concealed . and even a accidental brief sight by civilian and especially if an officer sees it.say getting out of truck and wind blows up your jacket. it in the law that is a 3rd degree a felony so under clothing or pockets is only safe protection from law . i would not have holster under jacket and of course fl in summer is too hot and humid for jackets
    holsters should have snap . theirs been 1 bill supposedly tossed by a court the 2nd attempt to make accidental display came in session where broward had school shooting and we all know pro gun got set backed that day even though it was 100% a multi government agency failure

  10. Live in NC around Camp Lejeune. Many open carriers, see them all the time in Walmart and grocery stores. Because of high military and ex military population no one gets alarmed or upset about it. Personally I prefer CC for reasons stated in previous comments. But sometimes these young OC are just stupid. One guy had a heavy revolver hanging out at about 30 degrees. It didn’t have any retention strap on at all, just screamed “Steal me!” . Not only that but it could have dropped on the floor or grabbed by a child.

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