Editor’s Note: The Lake Geneva Regional News presents opposing views from Editorial Board members on Lake Geneva's sex offender ordinance. Click here for the other side.
It is not unconstitutional to ban sex offenders from living near schools, day cares or playgrounds. That is utter hogwash.
Convictions costs criminals certain civil rights. After a felony conviction, a person loses the right to vote, serve on a jury and own a firearm. It is logical to extend those restrictions to limit where a person can reside, especially if that person is a danger to children.
The right to own a firearm is clearly spelled out in the Second Amendment, but after being convicted of a felony — even one that has nothing to do with a weapon — a criminal loses their Second Amendment rights.
Owning a firearm is a constitutional right. Living near a playground is not.
A few years ago the Lake Geneva City Council adopted an ordinance that stops sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of areas where children gather.
Lake Geneva wasn’t the first community to approve such an ordinance and it also wasn’t the last.
No one should be surprised that one of these laws were challenged in court. It is also should not be much of a surprise that a federal judge ruled that the restrictions in nearby Pleasant Prairie are unconstitutional.
This was a ruling made by a single federal judge. It was not made by an appeals court and it certainly wasn’t ruled on by the U.S. Supreme Court. This is hardly case law.
U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller, who ruled against the village of Pleasant Prairie, shouldn’t be the final legal voice in a community’s effort to create safeguards for its citizens against sex offenders.
After Stadtmueller’s ruling, communities throughout Wisconsin began rallying to relax their restrictions on where sex offenders can live. Earlier this year, the city of Brookfield eased its ordinance. Milwaukee, Waukesha and West Allis have all changed their laws to expand the areas where sex offenders can reside.
Now the Lake Geneva City Council is joining the bandwagon of municipalities that are kowtowing to this judge’s ruling. Only one Lake Geneva Alderman — Tim Dunn — is willing to fight, and he is willing to bring that fight to a courthouse.
“It sounds like we’re flopping around like chickens being attacked by a weasel or something,” he said. “I don’t see why we need to change our ordinance until somebody sues us and until we lose and exhaust all the appeals.”
The key to that phrase is too “exhaust all appeals.” A higher court may have a ruling that is more friendly to the city and the citizens of Lake Geneva.
As a society, we’ve decided that we don’t want felons armed with firearms, and we’ve also made it clear that we don’t want pedophiles living in close proximity to playgrounds. It’s not complicated.
Robert Ireland is general manager of the Lake Geneva Regional News.