When Republican lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would allow Wisconsinites to carry concealed firearms without training or a permit, some Democrats were alarmed.
“This bill is a slap in the face to our neighbors that are demanding real solutions to our state’s gun violence public health crisis,” state Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, wrote in a statement.
On a recent episode of “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” host Mike Gousha asked one of the authors of the bill, state Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, if he understood the negative response.
“Can’t you see that as a typical human reaction?” Gousha asked.
“I think that would be a typical emotional response, but then you have to look at the facts,” Craig said.
Those facts include Wisconsin’s history of gun laws, the precedent of other states and constitutional rights, he told Gousha, as he explained the bill he co-authored with Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma.
At a base level, the law would give citizens easier access to their constitutional rights, Craig said.
“This is a constitutional right, this is a fundamental right laid out by the Second Amendment,” he said. “Government should be examining that to determine and make sure people aren’t infringed of their rights.
Giving citizens access to those constitutional rights has panned out well in the past, he said. Already, Wisconsinites do not need a permit or training to carry a gun openly.
“In Wisconsin you can open carry (without a permit),” he said. “Are there any ill consequences of that in Wisconsin of any measurable amount? No, there’s not.”
Permitless concealed carry is already happening in 12 states, Craig said, ranging in ideology from Missouri to “Bernie Sanders' own home state of Vermont.”
“What makes Wisconsinites any different?” he said. “And if other states are doing this without ill effect, and we’ve had the level of permitless carry in Wisconsin without ill effect, why would we not break down that barrier?”
The bill makes it easier for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves, he said, and those intent on using guns for illegal purposes will do so anyway.
“And at the end of the day, people who are hell-bent on conducting violence with a firearm are going to do that,” Craig said. “The only people who are worried about the law are the law-abiding citizens.”
Asked about removing the training requirement, Craig said that some of the training standards were not effective: one was as minimal as hunter safety, he said.
“Hunter safety nothing to do with pistol training whatsoever,” Craig said. “You learn zero about carrying a pistol.”
The bill also states that schools would no longer necessarily have to be gun-free zones. This is intended to correct the possibility of legal punishment for a parent picking up their kid from school with a loaded gun in the car. Having a gun in the car is not illegal, but driving it into a gun-free school zone is. In that case, an “otherwise law-abiding citizen is now committing a felony,” he said.
Craig argued that the law, as currently written, is an inconvenience.
“What are you are forcing people to do, is to be out and about on their jobs ... having to turn home to put their firearm arm in a responsible manner and then come back to go get their child,” he said.
In his statement, Larson questioned whether the bill was really written for the benefit of Wisconsin citizens.
“Unfortunately, Republicans are not willing to stand up to rich gun manufacturers looking for profits at any costs — even our kids’ safety,” he wrote.
Gousha asked about the possibility of the bill being influenced by outside interests.
“Is this something the public was clamoring for? Or is this something that the National Rifle Association and certain interest groups were clamoring for?” Gousha asked.
Craig said that he campaigned on the issue in 2011, just before Wisconsin’s concealed-carry law was signed.
“Many individuals at that time were asking us to push harder and make sure we have the full use of our Second Amendment votes,” he said.
While statements from Gov. Scott Walker and other prominent Wisconsin Republicans issued in response showed support for the Second Amendment without specifically backing the bill, Craig is confident it will be passed.
“We’ve got more than 40 co-sponsors,” he said. “At the end of the day, it will become the law of the land.”