In an era in which pro-gun advocates have been racking up a string of victories, Doug Pettit is trying to hit the brakes. The Oregon police chief, who serves as the legislative chairman for the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, is one of the most vocal proponents of expanding background checks for gun buyers.

Pettit and his group are part of a national push by the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence, which hopes to convince federal lawmakers to mandate background checks on people who purchase guns at gun shows, flea markets and other venues that don’t involve licensed gun dealers.

How big a deal is that? The partnership says that about 40 percent of gun purchases fall outside background check requirements. So when you hear about record-breaking handgun purchases -- which are calculated using data from background checks -- you can calculate the actual number of new guns on the street by increasing the reported number by two-thirds.

Not only that, those who do go through background checks can slide through the cracks. Take Seung Hui Cho, who in 2007 killed 32 people at Virginia Tech. If state authorities there had submitted Cho’s mental health records to the background check system like they should have, Cho never would have passed the two background checks that paved the way for the massacre. Virginia now has one of the best compliance records in the nation, according to a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns. Pettit’s group is pushing for other states to follow suit.

Pettit is a hunter, a gun hobbyist, and he carries a gun on the job. But his push for what he considers reasonable gun regulations increases his visibility, and he’s being painted by some in the pro-gun crowd as an anti-gun zealot.

“I’m not very well-liked out there,” he says.

Pettit recently sat down to talk about his problems with background checks, the state’s hastily passed concealed carry law, and the failure of politicians to slow the agenda of the National Rifle Association and the rest of the pro-gun lobby.

Capital Times: At a time when politicians seem deaf to calls for gun control, why has the National Law Enforcement Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence embarked on an effort to strengthen regulations?

Doug Pettit: The amount of guns that are making their onto the street through these secondary sales is threatening law enforcement. For the first time in a very long time, more law enforcement officers lost their lives through gun violence in 2011 than lost their lives in car crashes. Law enforcement across the county is seeing that we have to make an effort to stem this tide, so why not now? And if you’re going to try to influence politicians coming up for election, now would be the time.

CT: After the movie theater massacre in Colorado and the Sikh temple massacre in Oak Creek, you’d think politicians would be stepping forward. But no one’s really talking about bringing back the assault weapons ban or restricting the number of rounds in a clip, are they?

DP: After the Oak Creek shooting and the Colorado shooting, we still can’t seem to get politicians engaged in this issue. We can’t even get the president engaged in this issue, even though in the 2008 campaign he indicated that he would reinstate the assault weapons ban. As soon as the Colorado shooting occurred, we had individuals, even one of our own senators, come out and say we don’t need any more regulation. We don’t want to talk about the fact that he had a 100-round magazine, thousands of rounds of ammunition.

CT: Much of the recent successes of the pro-gun legislation, and the failure of politicians to talk about gun control, have been attributed to the efforts of the NRA. Why do they wield such power?

DP: I don’t understand that, because they don’t spend a lot of money compared to other special interest groups. Yet it seems to be that politicians are afraid of having them come after them. I’ve had politicians actually tell me that: “I’m not going to go there on this particular issue because I don’t want the NRA coming after me in my reelection.”

CT: A recent story that ran in our newspaper included an interview with Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, who wants to amend the state’s concealed carry law to ban habitual criminals who have pleaded their felony charges down to misdemeanors. Flynn called a state senator about the issue and was given the number of an NRA lobbyist. What’s that say about the NRA’s clout?

DP: What Chief Flynn is calling for is an amendment of the law to catch what we think is a weakness in the law in terms of preventing criminals from possessing firearms. Obviously, if legislators are referring him to the lobbyist for the NRA to discuss a tweak, I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope that the Legislature’s going to take that amendment seriously.

CT: You have other problems with the concealed carry law, correct?

DP: Most residents, in polling, showed that they were in favor of much more training than ultimately ended up in the law. Yet apparently we’re not listening to the general public. We’re listening to a very small segment of special interest groups. One of the minimum training requirements is that at the age of 12 you received a hunter’s safety certificate to hunt deer or squirrels or rabbits, and now you’re 45 years old and that is sufficient for you to receive a concealed carry permit. That’s ludicrous.

CT: But you say your efforts and the efforts of the partnership don’t mean that you oppose concealed carry or the rights of Americans to purchase firearms.

DP: That law-abiding citizens should be able to have concealed carry, should be able to purchase firearms, I absolutely agree. But why are we afraid to vet those folks to make sure they’re law-abiding citizens? This is not about anti-gun. This is about putting reasonable restrictions in place to make sure that individuals, by current law, don’t access weapons if they’re prohibited from doing so. It isn’t any more difficult, complicated or sinister than that. I think the American public is behind that.

  • Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.

You might also like

(14) comments


Why does anyone need an assault rifle??????? REALLY- I don't think ownership of that is a right. What would it hurt to have a little more in the way of a background check????? Criminals always have more rights than victims.


Sounds like someone is trying to fix a problem that does not exist.


STEVEN ELBOW - Your statement about there being MORE NEW guns being purchased than indicated by NICS checks is patently WRONG!
All NEW gun purchases have to go through a Federal Firearms Licensed dealer and a NICS check has to be done for every prospective sale.
What errors come in are due to a couple of things:
NICS numbers could be high because of a sale stopped by either the customer or the dealer after the check has come back good.
NICS numbers could be low due to a customer buying more than one gun on that particular day from that particular dealer.
In neither case would the above cause there to be 2.5 times as many new guns "on the street" as there are NICS checks. (That's what the actual multiplier would be if only 40% of new gun purchases went through NICS.)




Once again we have little Doug Pettit wishing and hoping for more "gun control" with the able assistance of the radical left freedom hating CT. It is interesting and sad that Doug told a huge lie in this article when he said he supports concealed carry. He does not and never has. I have been at every hearing he testified at on the subject in the State Capitol. Without fail, he came out strongly against concealed carry always ending his remarks with the same tired rhetorical question, "Why now?". And so little Doug, I'm calling you a liar right here in public. Wisconsin's Concealed Carry Law is working beautifully. There are no problems just as their are no problems in other states. Good citizens are now able to legally carry the only tool that can save their lives in a lethal threat situation. How come whenever criminal misuse of firearms occurs you radical gun-grabbing moonbats want to take the guns away from the people who didn't do it?


Just another "puppet" of the Police Unions, in an Administrative Position; and, pushing the Marxist "progressive" agendas of submission and control of the whole population while breaking apart the American Constitutional Representative Republic and replacing it with a European style socialist "utopian" democracy!!! The WORST form of government on earth according to Thomas Jefferson.

There is nothing "progressives" fear more in the world than "We The People"!!


This is for Doug:

Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force.
If you want me to do something for you, you have a choice of either convincing me via argument, or force me to do your bidding under threat of force. Every human interaction falls into one of those two categories, without exception. Reason or force, that's it.

In a truly moral and civilized society, people exclusively interact through persuasion. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

When I carry a gun, you cannot deal with me by force. You have to use reason and try to persuade me, because I have a way to negate your threat or employment of force.

The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.

There are plenty of people who consider the gun as the source of bad force equations. These are the people who think that we'd be more civilized if all guns were removed from society, because a firearm makes it easier for a [armed] mugger to do his job. That, of course, is only true if the mugger's potential victims are mostly disarmed either by choice or by legislative fiat--it has no validity when most of a mugger's potential marks are armed.

People who argue for the banning of arms ask for automatic rule by the young, the strong, and the many, and that's the exact opposite of a civilized society. A mugger, even an armed one, can only make a successful living in a society where the state has granted him a force monopoly.

Then there's the argument that the gun makes confrontations lethal that otherwise would only result in injury. This argument is fallacious in several ways. Without guns involved, confrontations are won by the physically superior party inflicting overwhelming injury on the loser.

People who think that fists, bats, sticks, or stones don't constitute lethal force watch too much TV, where people take beatings and come out of it with a bloody lip at worst. The fact that the gun makes lethal force easier works solely in favor of the weaker defender, not the stronger attacker. If both are armed, the field is level.

The gun is the only weapon that's as lethal in the hands of an octogenarian as it is in the hands of a weight lifter. It simply wouldn't work as well as a force equalizer if it wasn't both lethal and easily employable.

When I carry a gun, I don't do so because I am looking for a fight, but because I'm looking to be left alone. The gun at my side means that I cannot be forced, only persuaded. I don't carry it because I'm afraid, but because it enables me to be unafraid. It doesn't limit the actions of those who would interact with me through reason, only the actions of those who would do so by force. It removes force from the equation... and that's why carrying a gun is a civilized act. *AUTHOR UNKNOWN*


Dear Doug: I am a gun owner. When I walk down the street with my gun on my hip, has that gun "made it to the street"? Is that gun "threatening law enforcement"? How much money from The Joyce Foundation gets funneled through W.A.V.E. into your bank account? What's really ludicrus is that you still have a job. Yet another fine piece of journalistic abortion by the fine folks at "The Weekly Shopper Insert". Carry On.

Bobby P
Bobby P

Trying to add comon sense to this discussion is like trying to convince moderate republicans that the "Trickle Down" theory didn't and will never work to improve our economy...


What we need to do is vet people who want to exercise their 1st amendment rights. Guys like Stevie, Davey, Little Johnny and politicians like 0bama who constantly lie should not be allowed to write for newspapers, speak in public or run for office. We should background check someone who wants to buy a computer to make sure they won't be involved in kiddie porn. We should check someone who wants to buy a car to make sure they don't drink. We should check people who buy a kitchen knife, hammer, etc. Where does it stop? The left always uses the terms sensible and reasonable laws. I guess our current laws are unreasonable and nonsensical. They should be eliminated.

Doug still seems to be afraid that those with concealed permits are going out on patrol and acting like vigilantes. That is far from the truth. No one wants to go out and shoot someone and then have to the justice system on our back or have our gun seized as evidence and not returned. A concealed carry licensee is not going to go thru the whole force continuum. We don't need verbal judo to try to talk someone out of doing violence. We won't be carrying batons and most likely not pepper spray. We won't have backup like the police usually do. We don't have hand cuffs to immobilize someone. When a criminal pulls a gun or knife, we want the chance to protect ourselves and those also in danger.

Tricolor Dog
Tricolor Dog

Time for some serious thought on the 2nd.Amendment.


First: The Wisconsin C.C. law was not "hastily passed".

Second: Stop blaming the gun, for what people who have no regard for others lives, do.

Third: Bringing back the "assault" weapons ban, and limiting the number of rounds a magazine can have, will not prevent anything. You only restrict the people from being able to defend themselves. It does not matter if Holmes had a 100 round magazine or not......the theater was a "gun free zone" which hindered everyone from being able to defend themselves and stop him after the first few shots were fired. Just like "school zones"...and every other place that is considered a "gun free zone" just give those who choose to do wrong, a place to commit their crimes. Way to go legislators!
And don't give anyone any grief about buying in bulk... or being able to purchase ammunition's cheaper for people who spend alot of time on the range. Besides, their are reports coming out now, that departments of the U.S. GOV. have purchased 750 MILLION rounds of calibars 7.62, .40, and 9mm ammunition. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK!)

Fourth: Are talking about the same Milwaukee police chief that has been proven to falsify his yearly crime statistics for the city?

Fifth: Someone who is 45 years old, has the life experience, wisdom, and MATURITY when it comes to handling a firearm. They also know what to learn, and how to spend time practicing on the range. That comment is pathetic.

If I want to buy a gun, I personally don't have a problem with a background check. Any person who is law abiding, and has a moral compass wouldn't mind so much either. But when we take into account, the power of government, and the lack of respect from our government in our personal lives, it's no wonder that their are so many against it. Their are simply too many people in our government that simply cannot be trusted with our freedoms.


"""""""""""""""""""""If I want to buy a gun, I personally don't have a problem with a background check. Any person who is law abiding, and has a moral compass wouldn't mind so much either. But when we take into account, the power of government, and the lack of respect from our government in our personal lives, it's no wonder that their are so many against it. Their are simply too many people in our government that simply cannot be trusted with our freedoms."""""""""""""""""""

I disagree strongly with your suggestion that said person who is law abiding and has a moral compass wouldn't take issue with a background check.

private gun sales have conditions and terms to be legal. A 100% legal private transaction with no background check is perfectly moral. everyone knows these sales, which occur by the thousands each and every day in this country with no connection to crime, aren't the problem. in fact the only people that even follow gun laws in the first place are those who are law abiding and have a moral compass. please wrap your head around just who these laws will effect, and who could care less, and will still be able to buy their guns on the streets.

there's a clear implication that a sizable percentage of these non-background check sales are illegal or that the two people involved have something to hid. if there was any proof of the sort i'm sure it would be presented.

the question that CT oddly missed (perhaps not a concern?):

who's paying for all these additional background checks? the system is swamped now.


obama is trying to get re-elected, cut him some slack he's smart enough to realize now isn't the time, no matter how many times the progressives use the term "sensible"

if you get him re-elected i'm sure this will be one of his many executive orders he will sign after.

i like how on one hand you admit that the background checks don't do a good job of keeping guns out of criminals hands but on the other hand you want private gun sales to have to go through background checks to prevent guns from the hands of criminals.

this is about control.

in bizarro world you can't use the term pro-abortion, that's called being pro-choice.

but you call them pro-gun advocates, why not pro-liberty?

gun laws only embolden criminals, while doing nothing for the actual safety of a society.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Exchange ideas and opinions on posted articles. Don't promote products or services, impersonate other site users, register multiple accounts, threaten or harass others, post vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language. Don't post content that defames or degrades anyone. Don't repost copyrighted material; link to it. In other words, stick to the topic and play nice. Report abuses by clicking the button. Users who break the rules will be banned from commenting. We no longer issue warnings. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.