The state’s largest police union doesn’t have a problem with law-abiding citizens carrying concealed handguns.
But it does want to keep minimal licensing and training standards in place, according to Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, which represents more than 10,000 officers in 300 communities across the state.
That’s a reasonable position the Legislature should respect.
Instead, about 50 Republican lawmakers, led by Sen. David Craig, R-town of Vernon, and Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, are pushing legislation to eliminate permit and training requirements for members of the public who want to pack heat.
The full Legislature should show it respects the concerns of rank-and-file officers — as well as the views of most constituents — by rejecting Assembly Bill 247 and Senate Bill 169.
“We aren’t against concealed carry,” Palmer told the State Journal editorial board Monday. “We just think maintaining a minimum requirement for training is a good thing for officer safety and for public safety.”
He’s right. If anything, the state’s current law is too lax. That’s why the police union opposed the concealed carry bill Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in 2011.
Current law requires most citizens to get a license to carry a concealed weapon from the state Department of Justice. Applicants must pass a background check showing they aren’t felons and complete at least a few hours of training, such as a hunter education class or firearm safety course.
Permits cost just $40 and must be renewed every five years for $22. That’s not much money. And the names of permit holders are hidden from the public. Not even officers can check if someone is a permit holder in most cases.
That’s a lenient system with little government intervention.
Yet Craig, Felzkowski and lots of their colleagues — including Reps. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam; John Jagler, R-Watertown; Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green; and Keith Ripp, R-Lodi — want the state to relax handgun laws even more.
The good news is some Republicans and many Democrats are speaking out against these bills. Sen. Luther Olsen, R-Ripon, told the Associated Press he wants to responsibly maintain firearm safety training. He also opposes allowing guns on school grounds, which the bills would permit.
Another opponent is Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas, who told WBAY-TV (Ch. 2) in Green Bay: “We all value our constitutional rights, but our Founders also made it clear that they were not unrestrained rights. Legislation like this, in a time when we continue to see random and impulsive acts of mass murder, ... only makes Wisconsin less safe.”
The Legislature should listen carefully to the concerns of law enforcement and stop these irresponsible bills from advancing.