Wisconsin Democrats announce new gun safety coalition

Posted at 2:20 PM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 15:20:06-04

Assembly Democrats announced the creation of a new gun safety advocacy coalition Monday, saying they can't believe Republicans want to further relax Wisconsin's gun regulations.

Reps. Terese Berceau, Melissa Sargent and Lisa Subeck, who all hail from Madison, held a news conference at the state Capitol to announce the formation of the Wisconsin Coalition for Gun Safety. The coalition includes the Wisconsin chapters of the National Physicians Alliance and the National Association of Social Workers, the Wisconsin Council of Churches and the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, or WAVE, among other groups.

Berceau said the coalition will lobby for gun safety bills, look for places to change gun policy and talk to people about gun violence. She said she's flabbergasted that Republicans who control the Legislature have done nothing to tighten gun regulations in the wake of mass shootings around the country and have instead chosen to loosen restrictions.

She noted that Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill in 2015 that eliminated the state's 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases.

She also pointed to a bill the GOP is currently considering that would allow people to carry concealed weapons without any training or permits. That measure would create licenses allowing concealed carry on school grounds. The National Rifle Association and Wisconsin Gun Owners, Inc., have registered in favor of the proposal.

Walker signed a bill on Monday calling for concealed carry license renewals to begin when the old license expires. Wisconsin law had said that licenses are valid for five years from the date of issuance, prompting complaints from some Republican constituents that renewing early cheated them out of several months on both their old and new licenses.

Berceau accused Republicans of doing the bidding of gun manufacturers at the expense of people's lives.

"It's very sad we have politicians choosing gun manufacturers ... rather than the citizens of their districts," Berceau said. "The answer is supposed to be more guns and security? It's unfathomable."

Berceau touted a bill she introduced in February that would require universal background checks for all gun purchases. Coalition members crowded around her with signs that read "Background Checks Save Lives" and "Background Checks Make Sense!"

The same bill failed last session. Berceau acknowledged the new version probably will go nowhere, too, but she wants to signal that at least some legislators care.

Coalition members were more optimistic about change. Shel Gross, director of public policy for coalition member Mental Health America of Wisconsin, said he believes Republican state Sen. Rick Gudex's suicide by gun last year provides an opening for a dialogue with the GOP about gun suicide prevention.

Spokeswomen for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.