Republican Legislators Halt Gun Law Discussion

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By: 
Michelle Phillips

MADISON–A September Marquette Law School Poll on gun laws in Wisconsin showed that just over 80 percent of citizens contacted want gun safety laws put in place (see graphic). In October, Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order for a special session to be held on Nov. 7 addressing two gun related bills presented by Melissa Sargent (D-Madison). 

The first bill was to enact a “red-flag” law. These laws, allow law enforcement officers or family members to petition a judge to temporarily revoke someone’s right to buy, own or carry weapons if they are a threat to themselves or others.

The second bill would have ensured universal background checks when purchasing a firearm. The background checks would include private sales at gun shows as well as Internet sales. There was an exclusion for firearms sold among family members.

Both Senate Majority leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) opened the session Thursday and each took less than a minute to adjourn the special session with no discussion or vote on the two proposed bills.

“I was surprised that they’re unwilling to even have a discussion. There was no chance to voice concerns on the bill,” said Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton), who supports the bills.

"There's just not any momentum in the caucus to take up either one of the bills that the governor has offered," Fitzgerald told the reporters on Nov. 7. While Vos claimed there was no reason to debate because the bill would fail. 

These comments do not seem to reflect the will of Wisconsin voters–both gun owners and non-gun owners said they are in favor of stricter laws.

“What some Republicans try to do is run to this extreme and say, ‘They want to take you guns away,’” Erpenbach said. “It’s about gun safety to me.” 

He added that he thinks the refusal to discuss gun laws is fueled by the National Rifle Association (NRA). Erpenbach said he expects the issue to continue to come up until, “the legislature gets it right.”

Middleton Police Chief Chuck Foulke, who recently sent a letter supporting common sense gun laws to the Times-Tribuneas well as the legislature, said he was disappointed in the way lawmakers dismissed the special session.

“The governor requested a special session to discuss and hopefully enact universal background checks and what is commonly referred to as red flag laws. These laws have the potential to save people’s lives from gun violence. These laws are supported by a majority of the people living in Wisconsin, yet the special legislative session was opened and then immediately closed without any debate or action. The leaders who have circumvented the people’s will should be ashamed of their inaction and should be prepared for the consequences during election time,” Foulke said in a statement to the Times-Tribune.

The Marquette poll, which was concluded on Aug. 29 and released on Sept. 4, found that support for more strict gun legislation has remained relatively steady over the past five years, with support for the laws ranging between 71 and 85 percent.

In the same time frame, support for banning “assault-style” weapons has risen slightly from 54 to 57 percent.

In addition, the poll found that men view the NRA more favorably than women with just under 54 percent supporting the organization. Men in rural areas supported the NRA slightly more than their city counterparts with 57.8 percent approval.

Of women, 46.6 percent favored the NRA overall, but rural women were much more supportive at 58.4 percent supporting the group.

The poll was conducted of 799 registered voters, 320 were landline respondents and the remainder cell phone respondents. Margin of error for the poll is +/- 4.2 percent. 

Erpenbach said that Democrats will continue to work on this legislation. “There will be opportunities to discuss this on the floor–when those opportunities arise, we need to be ready,” he said.

He also encourages those that support these laws to continue to contact legislators through phone calls, letters, emails and attending town hall meetings.

 

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