Man charged for open carrying has lawsuit against city dismissed

A Minnesota gun owner suing the city of St. Cloud and three police officials after he was arrested while walking in public with his rifle saw a federal judge side with the city last week.

U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim granted a motion by the City of St.Cloud and dismissed the case of Tyler Paul Gottwalt on March 28. The gun owner argued the city’s gun regulation is vague, overbroad and fundamentally unconstitutional in light of Minnesota’s preemption laws. This, in turn, led the defendants to overstep their powers, violating Gottwalt’s civil rights in the process.

Tunheim did not agree.

“Because Minnesota law does not permit an individual to publicly carry an AK-47 while in possession of a valid permit to carry a weapon, and because laws outlawing the public carrying of an AK-47 are not unconstitutional under the Second Amendment, the Court will grant the Defendants’ motion to dismiss Gottwalt’s claims,” wrote Tunheim in his 10-page opinion.

Gottwalt was stopped Nov. 17, 2014, by Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud police, as he walked across a bridge from one town to the next with an AK-style rifle, slung over his shoulder. While the Sauk Rapids officers stood by, those from St. Cloud consulted the city attorney and found that Gottwalt was not violating state law and had a carry permit, but could have run afoul of a local city ordinance on carrying weapons other than handguns in public and charged him as such.

A public records search shows Gottwalt has no criminal history barring a series of traffic citations, and before his court date on the weapons charge came up, Judge Vicki E. Landwehr moved to dismiss the case. City officials then attempted to have Gottwalt hit with a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge, which Landwehr likewise turned down, canceling the planned trial before jury selection was to begin.

This led Gottwalt to file a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Minnesota in May 2016, naming the City of St. Cloud, Assistant Chief of Police Jeffery Oxton in his official capacity and two other officers as defendants.

Gottwalt’s attorney, Kenneth Udoibok, told KNSI they plan to take the case to the U.S 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“We believe the district court has created new law in Minnesota. That people with a license to carry may not carry long guns or semi-automatic rifles in public without dismantling them, and in my opinion, that’s new law.”