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Saturday, June 22, 2024
Concealed Carry

After Gov. Scott Walker enacted Wisconsin's concealed carry law in 2011, many businesses and universities opted to prohibit the practice within their establishments.

State Republicans look to sharpen concealed carry law

A bill that would add switchblades to the list of weapons allowed under Wisconsin’s concealed carry law is circulating through the offices of the state Assembly, the latest in a series of weapons-related bills legislators expect to debate this session.

Concealed carry, which Gov. Scott Walker signed into law in 2011, allows owners of most small guns and knives to obtain a license to carry them undisclosed, but does not include billy clubs or switchblades.

Chad Zuleger, legislative staff for state Rep. Kathleen Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, said the exclusion of switchblades has caused particular confusion for Bernier’s constituents.

Zuleger said a law enforcement officer and concealed carry instructor in Bernier’s district contacted his representative and asked for her to introduce a bill to address his concerns and those of his students.

“Through the course of his instruction, the question often comes up about switchblade knives,” Zuleger said.

Currently, state statute defines a switchblade as a knife that includes a spring mechanism in the handle. Zuleger said the bill would amend that definition to be more specific, excluding knives that use a spring but would not commonly be considered a switchblade. These knives would then be added to the list of weapons licensed Wisconsinites can carry concealed.

“We’re shoring up the definition of a switchblade to more accurately reflect what the aim of the bill intended,” Zuleger said, adding the new definition would include knives frequently carried by retailers and veterans.

For state Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, the question is one of necessity.

“In general, I approach lawmaking as identifying problems that are serious and genuine, that are in need,” Goyke said. “Quite honestly nobody’s contacted me with any kind of pressing desire.”

Goyke said the bill was indicative of a larger pro-weapons agenda legislative Republicans have been pushing for a while.

Last week, state senators heard public testimony on a bill that would eliminate the state’s current 48-hour waiting period to buy a handgun, and earlier this month an Assembly committee approved a bill that changes the rules for returning a firearm seized by law enforcement under a search warrant.

State Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, introduced a bill earlier this month that would permit off-duty and retired law enforcement officers to conceal weapons on primary and secondary school grounds. Goyke said he would not be surprised by a proposal to expand those permissions to anyone with a concealed carry license this session.

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“The justification largely for firearm possession and concealment is for self-defense and public safety,” Goyke said. “Obviously I think that will be the narrative that the author would like to put forward but I don’t think that’s one that really stands the test of any serious scrutiny.”

While Kleefisch’s bill awaits debate on the Assembly floor, Zuleger said Bernier began circulating her bill for cosponsors earlier this month and hopes to introduce it before April.

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