Applicants to carry concealed weapons in Wisconsin will no longer have to complete four hours of training, after a Republican-controlled legislative committee voted Monday to do away with the requirement that had been assailed by the National Rifle Association as being too strict.
The rule mandating the successful completion of at least four hours of training was put in place by Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's Department of Justice in advance of the law taking effect last week.
Van Hollen testified Monday in support of the rule, saying it was necessary since the Legislature had said only that training was required but didn't say how much. He said four hours was the industry standard and not having a minimum requirement would make it impossible for the DOJ to verify that applicants had completed any training.
He also said that given that more than 20,000 people have submitted applications to get permits already, the public has not found the requirement to be too onerous.
But Republicans who control the Joint Committee for Review of Administrative Rules ignored Van Hollen's concerns and voted to suspend the rule effective immediately. The committee also removed a requirement that applicants have a signed statement from the instructor verifying that the course had been successfully completed.
"There's no reason why we have to micromanage how people obtain their concealed carry permit," said Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend. Other states with no minimum training requirements haven't had any problems and "there's going to be no problem in the state of Wisconsin either," Grothman said.
Republican Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, a sponsor of the bill, spoke in support of suspending the training requirement saying the Legislature's intent was to leave it up to applicants to determine how many hours of training they needed.
"I really truly believe we have to trust that individual," Suder said. The DOJ did not have the authority to specify a minimum number of hours, he said.
From now on, the DOJ will be "very liberal in accepting applications unless we have reason to believe there has been fraud or dishonesty or some aspect of the law has been disregarded," Van Hollen said.
Democrats on the committee sided with Van Hollen, but didn't have the votes to keep the rule in place.
"Without the provisions of four hours, we have a subjective standard that anybody is going to be able to meet," said Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison. "I don't know why on earth this committee would want to jeopardize public health and public safety by doing this."
Gov. Scott Walker signed off on the emergency rules last month just two weeks before the law took effect on Nov. 1. Walker, commenting after the NRA complained that the training requirement was unjustified and too strict, said he had reservations about the rule but he had no choice given that the law was about to go into effect.
NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam praised the removal of the four hour training minimum, calling it a "monumental victory for self-defense laws and for law-abiding men and women in Wisconsin."
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed Wisconsin's concealed carry law in July after years of lobbying from the NRA. With passage of that law, Illinois was left as the only state where concealed weapons are banned.
Under the law, anyone who wants to carry a concealed weapon must obtain a permit from DOJ. Applicants must receive training through courses conducted by national or state organizations that certify firearm instructors, courses offered by police departments, technical colleges and universities and courses for police officers and private detectives. They also must provide written proof they've completed such a course.
As of Monday afternoon, 1,669 licenses to carry concealed weapons had been approved and 339 had been rejected, DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck said.