Attorney General Josh Kaul, Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, and Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, met Thursday to discuss the firearm provisions in Gov. Tony Evers’ budget proposal.
The Justice Reform and Reinvestment section of Evers’ budget recommends background checks for all firearm transfers conducted through federally licensed firearm dealers. A new extreme risk protection procedure, commonly known as a “red flag” law, would make individuals deemed likely to injure themselves or others ineligible to procure a firearm.
“As we see life returning to normal after the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also unfortunately seen a drastic rise in mass shootings across our country, and in fact right here in the state of Wisconsin,” said Agard, stressing why these proposals are important and timely.
In late February, five people were killed in a mass shooting at the Milwaukee campus of Molson Coors. At least 11 other mass shootings have occurred in Wisconsin since 2004.
Johnson echoed this sentiment, explaining that Milwaukee has already seen 24 homicides this year, with 96 percent due to gun violence. Johnson also covered the gun statistics from 2020 in Milwaukee, citing 189 homicides due to gun violence and 700 non-fatal shootings as of December 16.
The conference was held soon after the supermarket mass shooting in Boulder, CO, on March 22, which followed the mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia.
While many of the suspects of recent mass shootings purchased their firearms legally because of limited firearm laws, many were able to evade background checks, according to the Associated Press. For example, in the August 31, 2019 shooting in Atlanta, the suspect purchased their AR-style rifle through a private sale, evading federal background checks.
“The people of Wisconsin know that those who skirt our gun laws using loopholes are doing a disservice to responsible gun owners everywhere. It’s common sense to prevent domestic abusers and felons from purchasing weapons using the gun show loophole. That’s why we need universal background checks,” said Agard. “It’s common sense to prevent people that are threatening to harm themselves and others from having access to guns and that’s why we support extreme risk protective orders.”
When asked how people purchasing guns for recreational use would be impacted by the new provisions, Kaul explained that most firearm purchasers would not be affected.
“The problem is our laws are written in a way that allows a small percentage of firearm purchasers to avoid the background check process, so people who are not allowed to legally obtain a firearm can try to get one in a way that doesn’t require them to go through the same background check,” said Kaul.
“The legislation…that’s included in the governor’s budget would close the loopholes and make sure that everybody who’s getting a firearm has to go through the same background check process so that if they are prohibited from owning a firearm that they’re not allowed to get the firearm,” Kaul continued.
Johnson explained that most of the people charged in gun court in Milwaukee were felons in possession of a gun, citing that they are “not going to Cabela’s” to purchase firearms due to the background checks required.
“For those individuals to get their hands on guns that they are not eligible for, the question has to come up, ‘How did they get access?’” said Johnson. “A lot of them are buying their guns online where…you don’t have to disclose if you are a convicted felon.”
Agard also addressed whether Republicans would accept the measures proposed in Evers’ budget. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, appeared unsupportive of background checks in the wake of mass shootings and a workplace shooting in Oconomowoc.
“What we know is that this does save money, and it saves lives and it is the right thing for Wisconsin,” Agard said. “I am hopeful that my colleagues on the Joint Finance Committee in the majority party take into consideration the thought that the governor has put into creating this budget and continue to include these provisions as they move forward.”
state news writer