The Wisconsin Assembly has wrapped up its session, but if Gov. Scott Walker introduces a school safety legislative package, Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, is ready to return to the Capitol.
“Absolutely, for something as important as this,” he said on Sunday's episode of WKOW-TV’s political talk show “Capital City Sunday.”
Hintz thinks that legislation is long overdue, but he’s not sure Walker will propose enough. Walker has mentioned strengthening security measures similar to the way airports beefed up security after 9/11. Hintz thinks that’s necessary, but reactive, and wants to go further. He’s pushing for stricter gun control.
“(Republicans) want to keep school children safe, but they also want to allow violent criminals access to AR-15s with bump stocks. And I think it’s time we choose and make a priority. Which is more important?” Hintz said.
Hintz supports increased funding for school security, and pointed out that he voted to allow schools to exceed revenue limits for security expenditures in the 2009 to 2011 state budget. He said strategies like having a single, secure school entrance can help keep schools safer.
But Republicans overturned that move in the next budget, and Democrats have been “pushing for years” to reinstate it, Hintz said. Hintz said multiple times that he has hope things might change this year because of the upcoming election.
“We finally have Gov. Walker and the Republicans a little more interested in doing something, seeing that the pulse of this issue has really changed nationally with the most recent school shooting,” he said.
But Hintz called focusing solely on school safety “reactive,” and pointed to mass shootings that occured in other venues like the Pulse nightclub shooting in Florida.
“We need to be proactive at doing the things we know reduce the risk gun violence in the first place,” he said.
Hintz believes in implementing a universal background check, a proposal Assembly Democrats recently tried to pass. But “despite 81 percent of Wisconsinites supporting that, we couldn’t get a single Republican vote,” Hintz said, and the measure failed.
Hintz was referencing a recent Marquette University Law School poll that found the majority of Wisconsinites (including households that own a gun) supported background checks at private gun sales and at gun shows.
“It’s pretty scary what’s happening out there, but there's certainly a role for state government to play, and I think we should make that a priority,” he said.
Hintz also commented on a letter he and state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-LaCrosse, sent to Walker asking for an immediate investigation into “possible Russian hacking of Wisconsin’s election system.”
“I think the big concern is the lack of urgency from Gov. Walker and Republicans on the integrity of our elections,” Hintz said. “Voters in Wisconsin need to be assured and have confidence that we have a system in place that is going to protect the integrity of our elections from Russia or anybody else who might be trying to meddle with the outcomes of our democracy.”
In the summer of 2016, Russian agents attempted to hack into Wisconsin elections systems. Host Emilee Fannon pointed out that the state officials have said the hacking attempts were unsuccessful.
“Whether it’s real or not, if the perception of the voters raises distrust, I think it’s a real concern,” Hintz said. He said voters and legislators need to be reassured that in 2018, close and contested races will truly be decided by the voters.