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In the wake of the nation’s largest mass shooting in Orlando by a man using a military assault weapon, two of the State Assembly’s most conservative Republicans told The Associated Press they think Wisconsin should make firearms more accessible in the state.
State Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, said there’s no way to totally protect people in a free and open society. He said the state should reduce the number of gun-free zones, allow school personnel to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds and allow people to transport weapons in their car while on school grounds, all of which would make it easier for law-abiding citizens to protect their families and themselves.
Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, said Wisconsin gun laws shouldn’t be changed except to allow people to carry weapons on college campuses. Kremer introduced a bill this past session that would have allowed concealed weapons in college buildings. He introduced the measure after a gunman killed nine people at a community college in Oregon. The bill failed.
Other Republican lawmakers refused to address the issue of gun control at all. Attorney General Brad Schimel issued a statement that amounted to a sigh of resignation concerning gun violence: “Unfortunately,” he said, “those intent on killing will find a means to do so.”
Since Republicans took control of the governor’s office and both legislative houses in 2011, they’ve passed measures significantly relaxing Wisconsin’s gun laws. They adopted laws allowing Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons, eliminating a 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases and permitting off-duty, retired and out-of-state police officers to carry guns on school grounds.
They’ve resisted calls for tighter gun restrictions after every major mass shooting, insisting the government should instead focus on treating the mentally ill to prevent such incidents.
But they’ve yet to offer plans for identifying and increasing the treatment of mental illness. In fact, when they turned down federal money to expand Medicare in the state, they reduced the ability of many in the state to receive such services.
Gov. Scott Walker, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s offices did not respond to emails The Associated Press sent inquiring about whether they feel Wisconsin gun laws need to be changed.
Asked directly on June 15 about whether Wisconsin gun laws need to change, the governor sidestepped the question. First, he said, law enforcement has to step up its anti-terrorism efforts, particularly internationally. If people see something out of the ordinary, they should report it to police, the governor said.
Walker noted, however, that France’s tight gun restrictions, which include a prohibition on fully automatic weapons, didn’t stop terrorist attacks in Paris last year.
“You’ve got people committed to terrorist acts, they’re not following the law to begin with,” Walker said.
France, however, has far fewer gun deaths per capita than the United States. According to mortality statistics, even if France had a mass shooting as deadly as the Paris attacks every month, its annual rate of gun homicides would be lower than that of the United States, where an average of 27 people are shot dead every day of the year.
Republican Assembly Leader Robin Vos posted a Facebook message saying people shouldn’t allow those who want to politicize the Orlando shooting to push an anti-gun agenda. Everyone should take time to pray, he said, before they start offering solutions to a problem no one understands.
Madison reporting by The Associated Press’ Todd Richmond.