Yesterday, amid a flurry of high-profile, highly controversial bills, the Wisconsin state assembly passed new gun legislation. The bill’s Republican authors argue that the legislation will protect Wisconsinites’ second amendment rights — Democrats say it’s a clear violation of federal law.
The legislation would change a number of policies for Wisconsin’s gun owners and sellers.
Broadly, it seeks to exempt certain firearms from federal regulations, bar the state from enforcing federal policies that restrict gun or ammunition sales, and prevent police officers from confiscating a lawfully possessed firearm.
The bill is part of a recent surge of Republican-authored gun legislation. The Associated Press reports that, as of March, at least a dozen states had introduced legislation barring federal gun control policies.
Wisconsin’s proposed changes are on shaky legal ground. Speaking during yesterday’s assembly session, Representative Tip McGuire, a Democrat from Kenosha, pointed out that the state can’t supersede federal laws and regulations.
“This bill is saying that enumerated powers of the federal government cannot be applied in the state of Wisconsin. Our body does not have the ability to determine that — this bill is unconstitutional as written,” he says. McGuire also says that the legislation would prevent police from confiscating guns from people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence.
“In 2019, according to End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, there were 48 cases of domestic abuse homicide. I’m concerned that this is going to make life for domestic violence victims less safe.”
McGuire says the bill could put the state at odds with federal law on confiscating firearms from abusers.
But, Republicans lawmakers reject McGuire’s claims. Representative Tyler August, a Republican from Lake Geneva, says that the legislation protects Wisconsinites’ gun rights from a perceived federal assault on the second amendment.
Says August: “The federal government, under the new administration, has really made no secret of where they stand on second amendment rights. They may claim that they support it, but their actions are very, very different.”
Or, as Representative James Edming — a Republican from Glen Flora — put it: “The only way you’re going to get my gun is by pulling my cold, dead finger off the trigger.”
That statement came after Edming compared the Biden administration’s gun control policies to Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany.
Both Republicans have accepted campaign donations from the NRA.
The bill passed the assembly 61-36, with Representative Nick Milroy as the lone Democratic supporter. Even if it passes the Republican-controlled Senate, it faces a likely veto from Governor Tony Evers.
In 2019, the Governor called a special session on gun violence, exhorting the legislature to expand background checks and enhance emergency risk protection orders, also called red flag laws, to temporarily suspend gun rights to individuals judged by a court to be potentially harmful to themselves or others. The legislature did not take up that legislation.