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Local News

Wisconsin Democrats Push Gun Safety Legislation

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by Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner
June 12, 2023

At a news conference from the floor of the Wisconsin Assembly on Monday, Wisconsin Democrats, joined by Attorney General Josh Kaul, called for a debate over gun safety legislation they are reintroducing this legislative session. 

The lawmakers called on the Republicans in control of the Legislature to schedule public hearings on three bills that Democrats said are “common-sense” safety issues supported by most of the public. The bills address changes to state law that Gov. Tony Evers had included in his proposed budget, but which were struck out by Republicans in control of the budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance. 

“Democrats hear the voices of the people of the state of Wisconsin, we are here working for the people of the state of Wisconsin, for our kids, for our loved ones, for our communities to ensure that Wisconsin is more safe,” Senate Minority Leader Melissa Agard (D-Madison) said. “But unfortunately, the majority party here in the state Legislature is tone deaf to the majority of the people of the state of Wisconsin and continue to block these policies from even being debated in a committee in the State Capitol building. Their continued inaction is complacency. We have no more room for thoughts and prayers in the state of Wisconsin because lives are being lost on a daily basis. We know gun violence is preventable. We know that the time to act is past due.”

The bills would require a background check on all gun sales, including guns bought privately and at gun shows; create a procedure through which a judge can temporarily take away people’s guns if they’ve shown themselves to be a danger to themselves or others and promote the safe storage of firearms. 

Attorney General Josh Kaul, health care professionals, students and other gun safety advocates joined the lawmakers to say gun violence in Wisconsin can’t be addressed if Republicans refuse to have a debate over the state’s firearm policies.

“You’ve heard from doctors, you have heard from law enforcement, you have heard from legislators, supporters, people of all kinds,” Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) said, “80% of Wisconsinites support these three measures and we are asking for a public hearing on them. We cannot solve gun violence if we cannot talk about gun violence. So it’s time to bring these bills forward so that we can work on saving lives.”

The background check bill would require a check be performed for all handgun sales except when the gun is being transferred to a firearms dealer, law enforcement or armed services agency; is classified as an antique; is being transferred for less than 14 days for the purposes of hunting or trap shooting or is transferred as a gift or inheritance to a family member. 

The extreme risk protection order bill, also known as a red flag law, would allow a law enforcement officer or family member to petition a judge to issue a temporary restraining order that prohibits a person from possessing a firearm for up to one year if it can be proven the person is a risk to themselves or others. The order will be renewable after the year and the person subject to the order can petition to have it vacated.

At the news conference, Andraca noted that 19 other states have similar laws and that Wisconsin law enforcement’s inability to use this method puts officers unnecessarily at risk. 

“We should not have to risk the lives of our first responders over and over again,” she said. “We should not have to stand idly by when someone is talking about suicide and we know that there are guns in the home.” 

The safe storage bill would exempt barrel locks, trigger locks and gun safes from Wisconsin’s sales tax in order to encourage better storage of firearms in people’s homes and vehicles. 

“This is one of the simplest, most common sense things that a responsible gun owner can do to keep their weapon from either being used in a crime or being unwittingly used by a child who has found that weapon,” Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison) said. 

The three bills have begun to circulate for co-sponsorship.

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