Last night, the Board of Health for Madison and Dane County passed a resolution that would allow the city of Madison to help advocate for gun control reforms.
With the proposal, the city would be able to lend both its name and statistics to lawsuits brought by other units of government regarding gun violence and regulations.
The city itself has a small amount of control in gun reform, limited mostly to forbidding concealed carry in city buildings. Broader efforts are primarily the business of state and federal authorities.
But the resolution would allow the city to sign on to cases related to gun regulation.
The move is not necessarily unique. The City of Madison has done the same for other broad issues, like immigration and elections. But it does demonstrate the city’s official stance.
City Attorney Michael Haas brought the resolution forward.
He says it’s a way of working around state-imposed limitations.
“As we are trying to brainstorm about what we can do in a legal environment where we on constrained by state statute on how much a city can implement on it’s own, we thought this is one step the city can take to show our support for firearm legislation and trying to reduce firearm violence,” Haas says.
Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and alders Yannette Figueroa Cole and Lindsay Lemmer are sponsors of the resolution.
According to the Madison Police Department, weapons-related violations increased by 37% from 2018 to 2021. Additionally, Madison saw 10 homicides last year, tying its record high, though the total number of incidents where shots were fired dipped down.
The resolution cites research conducted by Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy organization largely financed by Michael Bloomberg. According to their research, as cited in the legislation, Wisconsin has the 34th highest rate of gun violence last year, and nearly three-quarters of all homicides in the state last year involved a firearm.
It also cites statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, that found more than half of domestic partner homicides in 2019 involved a gun.
In 2019, Governor Tony Evers called a special session to take up his plan to expand background checks and “red flag” laws in the state, but the Republican-led legislature took no action. . Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers passed a series of bills to further weaken gun laws in Wisconsin, but those bills were all quickly vetoed by Governor Evers.
Mayor Rhodes-Conway says this is a public health issue. She adds that, if the resolution is adopted, the Board of Health for Madison and Dane County would assist with research.
“What would happen if this resolution passes (and I do think it will), is that it authorizes myself and the city attorney to choose to sign on to this type of litigation. The city attorney’s office would be the point in that case, but we could then reach out to the Board of Health, the police department, to other agencies for information and data, particularly about the impacts of gun violence here in Madison, and to be able to communicate that in the context of the litigation,” Rhodes-Conway says.
“I think myself, the mayor’s office, and the Common Council recognize that gun violence is a public health issue and firearm regulation is a part of that, and to the extent that firearms contribute to violence that we have in our community, we want to explore ways to reduce that,” Haas says.
Haas further notes that he is also looking at other ways the city can maneuver around state laws to enact some form of gun control here in Madison.
Rhodes-Conway says that this resolution can help lead to greater steps at a federal level.
“The big picture context here is that in Madison, like in many cities, gun violence is a real problem. We are doing our best at the city level to take a multifaceted approach to it, but real solutions mostly rely on the state and federal level. It’s important for us to be able to work on this issue at the state and federal level, and at the courts as well so that we are really taking the most comprehensive approach we can to tackling gun violence,” Rhodes-Conway says.
The resolution will now head to the Public Safety Review Committee tomorrow night, and is expected to go before the full council at the end of the month.