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Both husband, wife now have left loaded guns in restrooms

By Bruce Vielmetti of the Journal Sentinel

Aug. 27, 2014 0

Apparently, carrying a concealed weapon for some people is so second nature they don't realize when they've left their gun behind in a restroom.

A 76-year-old Oconomowoc man — whose wife left a loaded handgun in a Brookfield church restroom this year — left his own weapon in the restroom of a Door County fun park this month, according to sheriff's department reports.

The loaded Ruger .380-caliber was found, in a holster, on the floor of a men's room at the Egg Harbor Fun Park on Aug. 9. A patron of the park — which features miniature golf, go-carts, arcade games and many other attractions for families — turned it in to the park's owner. The owner held it a few hours, assuming the owner would come back looking for the gun. When no one did, he called the sheriff's office.

Investigators traced the gun to Gerald Hitchler, who has a second home in Egg Harbor. Records showed he had purchased the weapon in 2012 from a Gander Mountain store.

No one was hurt.

When a deputy contacted Hitchler, he expressed shock that the gun was found at the fun park, though he acknowledged he had gone there with his wife. He told a deputy both he and his wife have permits to carry concealed weapons.

Thomas Grieve, an attorney representing Hitchler, said neither he nor his client wanted to comment Wednesday.

According to the sheriff's office report, the Door County prosecutor initially felt there was no crime committed. Hitchler was supposed to pick the gun up Tuesday, when he planned to be back in Door County.

However, when sheriff's officials learned that Hitchler's wife had similarly forgotten a loaded handgun, they planned to have prosecutors review the matter.

Susan Hitchler, 67, was charged with negligently handling a weapon, a misdemeanor, for leaving her gun in the women's restroom at Elmbrook Church in April.

A Waukesha County judge dismissed the case in June, after Hitchler's lawyer argued that no crime had been committed since no one was ever endangered. A church janitor noticed the gun and turned it over to the building's security officer.

Nik Clark, president of Wisconsin Carry Inc., a gun rights advocacy group, said forgetting a gun in a bathroom violates a fundamental rule of firearm safety: "Maintain control of your firearm at all times."

"These careless mistakes reflect very poorly on the individuals who make them. Embarrassment and scorn is warranted," whether it be a gun, power tool, a running car or even matches left where and when a child might use them and injure themselves or others. "Incidents such as these, while unfortunate and shameful, are extremely rare, and do not justify sacrificing all the positive aspects of lawful gun ownership and lawful carry."

Clark also said that incidents illustrate why all children should be exposed to and trained about guns so if they do encounter one in an unexpected place, they know how to respond.

Bruce Vielmetti thumbnail
About Bruce Vielmetti

Bruce Vielmetti writes about legal affairs.

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