Arthur W. Thomas
The attempted assassination of Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords (D-Arizona) earlier this month has led to a renewed interest in gun control legislation.
Nationally, the debate has centered on limiting the number of bullets in magazines and changing restrictions on buying guns. In Wisconsin, however, the legislature is likely going to take a different path.
Twice during former governor Jim Doyle’s time in office, the state legislature passed concealed carry legislation only to have it vetoed. When Republicans took control of the Governor’s Mansion along with both houses of the legislature in the November elections, passage of a concealed carry law became widely expected.
The tragedy in Tucson has not changed that according to State Representative Bill Kramer, a Republican whose district includes Carroll University. He said it is likely the legislature will develop a permitting process for concealed carry. He added the bill would likely come up in fall, after the legislature has completed work on the state budget
“Gun control laws are good at taking guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens,” said Kramer, a supporter of concealed carry legislation.
He drew an analogy between guns and computers, suggesting that just because some use them for illegal activities does not mean no one should use them.
“A tool is a tool,” said Kramer.
The pro-gun group Wisconsin Carry would like to see the legislature go further and pass “Constitutional Carry.”
“The generally accepted definition of Constitutional Carry is that law-abiding citizens who are legally allowed to own and possess firearms may carry those firearms in the manner of their choosing (open or concealed) without having to obtain a government permit,” said Nik Clark, Chairman and President of Wisconsin Carry.
Clark believes Wisconsin’s gun laws are unconstitutional as they are now. He points to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Washington DC’s gun ban as proof. In addition, he cites Wisconsin’s own constitution as a further reason.
He also cited research done for Wisconsin Carry that suggested if Wisconsin instituted Constitutional Carry the state could save $571 million by reducing crime.
Like Clark, Annette Olson, a co-founder of Uninfringed Liberty, part of the Wisconsin Patriot Coalition believes the current laws are unconstitutional.
“The right to self-defense is given to us by God,” said Olson. “No man should take it away.”
Both Clark and Olson feel no legislative action could have prevented the tragedy in Tucson.
“Criminals do not obey laws,” said Clark. “I do believe that the best we can do as a society is enable law-abiding citizens to posses the tools they need to defend themselves against a mentally disturbed individual or a criminal who would intend them harm.”
To those who suggest Wisconsin gun laws are too restrictive, Jeri Bonavia, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, points out not all states have open carry programs like Wisconsin. She also suggested that not all concealed carry programs are the same, saying that some are more restrictive than others.
“In some ways,” said Bonavia. “Wisconsin is much looser than other states.”
She said that her organization has been advocating closing loopholes in criminal background checks, suggesting they be required on all gun sales. According to Bonavia, about 40 percent of all gun sales happen without background checks on the private market.