Tag Archives: handguns

Dems: Bring back 48-hour wait period for gun purchases

In the wake of yet another rash of high-profile mass shootings, Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin held a news conference on Oct. 14 calling for the reinstatement of a law mandating a 48-hour waiting period before purchasing handguns.

In June, GOP lawmakers repealed the waiting-period law, which had been on the books for 40 years. 

“This (reinstatement) bill is one small step in a larger effort to try to curb gun violence in our communities,” said state Sen. Nikiya Harris Dodd, D-Milwaukee, in a press statement. “The 48-hour waiting period is a proven method to reduce impulsive actions by those who are looking to harm themselves or others.”

The Democratic effort, however, has virtually no chance of succeeding in Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

Only nine states and the District of Columbia require waiting periods for handgun purchases, ranging from three days to two weeks, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun-control advocacy group.

Gov. Pat Lucey signed the waiting-period bill into law in 1976 to provide a cushion of time for people to cool off before acting out violently during times of intense personal crises, such as jealous rages. The cooling-off period also was designed to discourage suicides, particularly impulsive suicides.

More than half of all deaths by suicide in the United States are carried out using firearms, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, more people die of self-inflicted gunshots than shots fired by others. Although more people attempt suicide by overdose, they are successful only 3 percent of the time. Suicide attempts using firearms succeed 85 percent of the time.

“For those considering an impulsive violent act, handguns have the deadly appeal of being both highly lethal and accessible,” said state Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh. “Contrary to popular belief, suicides most often take place in a relatively brief time frame of intensified vulnerability. For someone considering hurting themselves or others, the 48-hour waiting period provides a time to cool off and reconsider.”

Republicans counter that the waiting period inconveniences law-abiding citizens. They argue that the waiting period was enacted because background checks in 1976 required digging through file cards by hand. Today the state Department of Justice can perform online background checks almost instantaneously.

NRA Agenda

Wisconsin Republicans took up the repeal bill shortly after the National Rifle Association’s call in April for an end to such laws. The NRA’s legal action institute said the law had become an unnecessary inconvenience for handgun dealers and buyers.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the repeal of the waiting-period law just one week after a racist gunman killed nine African-American people attending a Bible study meeting in a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Walker defended his timing, which progressives criticized.

“If we pulled back on this, it would have given people the erroneous opinion that signing the law today had anything to do with what happened in Charleston,” Walker said. “This allows Wisconsin’s law to catch up with the 21st century.”

Between 2008 and 2014, the NRA spent $3.5 million to support Walker, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. 

Wisconsin’s Republican leadership has made the expansion of gun ownership and gun owners’ rights a priority since taking over all aspects of state government in 2010.

In June, in addition to overturning the waiting-period law, Wisconsin’s Republican majority also passed two bills expanding the state’s concealed carry law. One measure allows active-duty soldiers stationed for at least a year in Wisconsin to obtain a state concealed carry license. The other enables former police officers who worked out-of-state but now reside here to apply for a federal concealed carry license if they obtain annual training through the Wisconsin Department of Justice, sparing them a trip back to their former state to obtain the training.

Also in June, Republicans pushed through a law allowing off-duty, retired officers to carry guns at schools. The law’s chief Senate sponsor, Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, said it would create another line of defense for students and teachers if a shooter attacks them.

Opponents said allowing non-uniformed officers to carry guns at schools could scare students and allow non-officers to carry concealed weapons without school administrators being able to interfere. They also said officers who are mentally unstable could create deadly situations in schools.

Pennsylvania law prompts towns to rescind gun-control measures

Just a week after taking effect, a novel state law that makes it easier for pro-gun groups to challenge local firearms measures in court is already sparking change. Nearly two dozen Pennsylvania municipalities have agreed to get rid of their ordinances rather than face litigation.

Joshua Prince, an attorney for four pro-gun groups and several residents, cited the new law in putting nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities on notice that they would face legal action unless they rescinded their firearms laws.

At least 22 of those municipalities have already repealed them, or indicated they planned to do so, according to Prince, who specializes in firearms law and is based in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania has long prohibited its municipalities from enforcing firearms ordinances that regulate the ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of guns or ammunition.

Gun-rights groups complained that scores of municipalities ignored the 40-year-old prohibition by passing their own, mainly unchallenged gun measures.

Under the new state law, gun owners no longer have to prove they have been harmed by the local measure to successfully challenge it. Also, membership organizations such as the National Rifle Association can stand in to sue on behalf of any Pennsylvania member.

The challenger can also seek damages.

The cities of Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster have sued to overturn the law, saying the legislation was passed improperly. That lawsuit is pending in Commonwealth Court.

Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, is encouraging municipalities with gun laws to stand pat, at least until the legal challenge is resolved.

“We certainly understand that they feel threatened and concerned. We feel like they have been put in a terrible position by their representatives in Harrisburg,” she said.

Reading City Council signaled last week it intended to repeal laws that ban firing weapons within city limits and require owners to report lost or stolen weapons. Officials said the city could ill afford a legal battle.

“We get ourselves in trouble in terms of trying to circumvent a state law,” said Councilman Jeff Waltman. “We’re not going to solve this with a local gun law anyway.”

The city of Harrisburg plans to defend its ordinances, asserting they comply with state law. The measures ban gunfire anywhere in the city and weapons possession in city parks. There’s also a reporting requirement for lost or stolen weapons.

Harrisburg’s laws are intended to combat gun violence and have the support of the police chief, said Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

“I don’t think it’s the be-all and end-all of public safety, but I think it’s an important tool to have, and it absolutely sends the wrong message to try to rescind those ordinances, especially given the epidemic of gun violence we have in cities like Harrisburg,” he said.

“Papenfuse denounced the new state law as representing ‘a fringe ideological view.'”

Papenfuse denounced the new state law as representing “a fringe ideological view.”

But gun activist Dave Dalton said no municipality has a right to flout Pennsylvania law. He said the law gives gun owners a tool to hold municipalities accountable.

“What gives a town or a city the authority to say, ‘We’re in Pennsylvania, but we don’t care about Pennsylvania law?’ It’s laughable,” said Dalton, founder of American Gun Owners Alliance in the Pocono Mountains, one of the groups represented by Prince.

The local laws have violated gun owners’ rights without making anyone safer, said another of Prince’s clients, Kim Stolfer, founder of Firearms Owners Against Crime.

“I think all of us are pleased it’s a good start, that communities are starting to look at this,” Stolfer said. Before gun groups were given standing to sue, he said, municipal officials “were just going to thumb their nose at a system that wasn’t going to hold them responsible.”

The NRA has not yet contacted any municipality, but said it’s reviewing local ordinances to ensure they comply with Pennsylvania law.