A crowd of people protesting gun violence gathered on the steps of the state Capitol this morning. They called for state lawmakers to pass legislation that would strengthen restrictions on guns in Wisconsin.
In October, Governor Tony Evers ordered lawmakers to meet in a special legislative session to consider two bills related to gun control.
One bill would allow courts to take away a person’s guns when law enforcement or family members say a person may pose a danger to themselves or others. Seventeen states have passed similar red flag laws.
The other bill would require gun sellers to conduct background checks on their customers. Evers pointed to the importance and popularity of these gun safety measures when he called the special session in October.
“Eighty percent of Wisconsinites support universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders including those who are gun owners,” said Evers. “These are common sense solutions.”
Evers’ numbers come from the Marquette Law School’s August poll, which found that only sixteen percent of Wisconsinites opposed background checks. The poll also found that 81 percent of households who had guns supported red flag laws. Former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed red flag bill into law in 2014, but that bill only applied to an individual’s spouse.
But the top two Republican lawmakers say they don’t plan to consider the bills. House Speaker Robin Vos says the GOP will not entertain proposals that infringe on constitutional rights.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald was equally dismissive last week.
“Both of those in Republican-controlled legislatures are non-starters,” said Fitzgerald. “We’ll gavel it in because we’re required to, but we’ll also gavel it out. I’ve talked to Vos about this many times, and I just don’t see it happening.”
But today’s crowd in front of the capitol steps were in favor of increased gun restrictions.
Heather Driscoll, a volunteer for gun safety advocacy group Moms Demand Action, said gun access is what allowed her father to die from suicide.
“Over the course of a few weeks he mad e it clear that he had a death wish,” said Driscoll. “On May 27, 1982, he called his counselor and told him he was going to kill himself. My mom did not know about that call. My dad drove down a gravel road and he shot himself with a Magnum 44 in the chest. And what kills me is not knowing if he regretted shooting himself after pulling the trigger, because most of the time if you shoot y ourself with a gun there are no second chances.”
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that firearms are the most lethal method of death by suicide. Darryl Morin, the leader of an advocacy group called Forward Latino, said people should take this into account when calling gun violence a city problem.
“We know according to the center of disease control that seventy-one percent of gun deaths in the state of Wisconsin is actually by suicide, by those choosing to take their own lives, primarily in the rural areas,” said Morin.
The problem facing many gun control advocates is that all actions must be taken at the state level. Wisconsin has a state law that prevents local gun regulation unless the suggested regulation is no more stringent than a state statute. Debra Gillespie, founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence, knows how difficult it can be to regulate guns.
“Mothers Against Gun Violence was founded after my only son was murdered by a felon with a gun,” said Gillespie. “I needed some way to mobilize people and legislators. I was able to push local legislation and try to push state legislation, but back then we didn’t succeed.”
The Assembly was still meeting by the time of broadcast.