‘Constitutional carry’ bill receiving mixed responses in state Legislature

by WisPolitics.com

A bill that would allow constitutional carry is upsetting Democrats and getting a so-so response from the leader of the state Assembly.

The bill was OK’d by a GOP-run Senate committee in mid-September and could get a vote this fall. The bill would allow people to carry concealed guns without first getting a license, green-light the carrying of those weapons on school grounds in certain situations and permit the carrying of tasers without licenses or training, among other things.

The amended version would also add permit requirements for concealed carrying in school zones to ensure parents who pick up and drop off their kids while carrying aren’t breaking the law.

The “right to carry” bill was introduced by Rep. Mary Felz- kowski, R-Irma, and Sen. Dave Craig, R-Town of Vernon. It is backed by groups like the NRA.

Tony Evers, the state schools superintendent and a Democratic candidate for governor, said the bill is an example of legislation he’d “be playing goalie on” if he got elected governor.

“Kids in Wisconsin don’t need more guns near or around schools,” Evers said. “I’ll continue to oppose language that jeopardizes the safety of kids.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said possible improvements could be made to Wisconsin’s law that requires a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

But he added: “I also think our current process isn’t broken.”

Vos said he has long argued those who, for example, have a gun in their car shouldn’t be committing a felony when they drop their child off at school because of gun-free school zones. The bill would allow those who have concealed carry permits to have a gun in their car or within 5 feet of their vehicles when on school grounds.

When the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee took its vote advancing the legislation, the two Democrats on the panel were opposed.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said the legislation aims to “weaken firearm laws, and I think we should strengthen them.”

And Sen. Lena Taylor, DMilwaukee, said while she supports the right to carry, the legislation “is a deviation from what the majority of Wisconsinites agree with,” as she called for stronger training and licensing requirements rather than backing reductions to what’s already in state law.

“We don’t even let people get behind a car without some training and a license,” she said. “So I’m challenged with something that’s much smaller and more powerful and deadly.”

Gov. Scott Walker in June had said he supports and is “comfortable” with the current concealed carry law, which requires anyone who carries a concealed weapon to get a permit. But Senate committee chair Van Wanggaard’s office said he’s confident it’ll pass both chambers and earn Walker’s signature.

In the meantime, some Democrats are using the issue to raise money for their campaigns.

Said Sen. Chris Larson, DMilwaukee, in a recent fundraising appeal: “... Republicans legislators advanced a bill that will allow pretty much anyone to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without any safety training or even a simple background check, a boon to the gun industry and more danger in our communities.

“I have consistently stood up to the gun lobby and won’t back down now. But I can’t win this critical fight for public safety alone. Can I count on your support of $100, $50, $35 or whatever you can afford to help ensure that we can continue to be an effective voice in standing for our values?

“The gun lobby and firearm corporations want a big win in Wisconsin and they are willing to pay for it. They peddle fear with campaigns of misinformation, backed by money from the record profits they are raking in. We need to stand up and say ‘No More.’”

But the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action says, “This bill recognizes a law-abiding adult’s unconditional Right to Keep and Bear Arms for selfdefense in the manner he or she chooses. Further, 12 states currently have similar Right to Carry laws which allow lawabiding individuals to possess a concealed firearm for selfdefense without a permit.”

It’s the kind of competing messages you might see in next year’s campaigns.

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