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Gun rights case might take a long time to resolve


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) -- It may take a long time to resolve the legal battle involving a gun rights organization, a Wausau man, and his former employer. Ethan Shepherd is suing Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork Company, Inc. of Wausau in a wrongful discharge action. He was terminated for showing a fellow employee his concealed carry firearm within the confines of his vehicle, which was parked on company property.

Shepherd is getting some legal help from gun rights advocates at Wisconsin Carry Inc. President Nik Clark believes Shepherd’s rights were violated.  “We did some research just to verify what he told us, and we were able to verify that, and then we filed the lawsuit. Obviously, he’s the plaintiff, but we funded the lawsuit on his behalf, and our attorneys filed it.”

Clark says Wisconsin’s concealed carry law is relatively new, and he believes many employers don’t know the law allows people to keep firearms in their vehicles, treating the vehicle interior as the owner’s private property. He says showing the weapon to a co-worker after his shift is not grounds for dismissal.  “When you’re leaving work with a co-worker, you know Wisconsin’s concealed carry law is new, and a lot of people are interested and going to get their concealed carry licenses and interested in purchasing guns, so it was that type of interest from a co-worker. They were in his car ready to leave but they were still in the parking lot but within the confines of the vehicle.”

Clark says Shepherd was terminated in March, and efforts to resolve the issues with Kolbe & Kolbe were not successful, so the suit was filed.  “What was most disappointing to me was that when we sent a letter to the company and brought this to their attention, they decided to articulate different facts to the case than what was articulated to them, so we do have witnesses that can corroborate the story of Mr. Shepherd, and we’re very confident in the research that we’ve done to make sure that we had all of our ducks in a row in this case.”

To Clark’s knowledge, this is the first case of this nature to go to court in Wisconsin. He says the new concealed carry law doesn’t outline the penalties very well for violating the gun owner’s rights, so this case may set a precedent. He also predicts it will take a long time to finish.  “I’ve been amazed at how slow the wheels of civil litigation turns, so there will be quite a period before this probably even gets scheduled, and then once that happens, then there will be depositions and discovery, and hopefully it doesn’t come to that point. I think that for the efficient use of Kolbe & Kolbe’s time and resources, and given the facts of the case, like I said, we’d hope they would come to approach us with a solution.”

Shepherd is seeking reinstatement to his old job and back pay. In the meantime, Clark says Shepherd is looking for a new job.  “He’s trying to find a position, to mitigate the loss of income that he has, and find a similar position, but obviously in a tough economy here in Wisconsin, that’s not easy to do and I understand he has not yet found employment.”

Papers were just served on Kolbe & Kolbe this week. The company has not commented on the case.

No court dates have been set yet.

(Our interview with Nik Clark can be heard on our website, here.)