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Shooting Down Gun Laws

Oct. 20, 2009
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Milwaukee officials united behind a major new effort to reduce the devastation caused by handguns in Wisconsin until, inexplicably, some of those same officials began negotiating against themselves.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Police Chief Ed Flynn and Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm put together an impressively coordinated campaign against handgun violence after tracing the last six shootings of Milwaukee police officers back to one gun store in West Milwaukee.

Even a few pro-gun Republicans in the state Legislature voiced possible support for stronger laws to keep guns out of the hands of convicted felons and penalize “straw buyers” who purchase guns that immediately fall into the hands of criminals.

Since politicians all over America are notorious for their cowardice about voting for strong laws to control slaughter in the streets from handguns, for a brief moment it appeared a rare opportunity had arrived to pass meaningful legislation. Armed with evidence that Badger Guns in West Milwaukee had sold one-third of the guns traced from Milwaukee crimes over the last four years, Barrett proposed a series of tougher state laws against illegal sale and possession of handguns.

They included making multiple offenses of carrying concealed weapons felonies instead of misdemeanors, making it a felony to act as a “straw buyer” to purchase a gun illegally for a felon, requiring felons to stay 1,000 feet away from gun stores and requiring all gun thefts to be reported so the owners of guns used in crimes could not claim such thefts after the crimes were committed.

So far, so good. With Democrats controlling both houses of the Legislature and the governor’s office, finally there seemed to be a real possibility such common-sense measures might pass.

Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle twice before stood up to the pro-gun lobby by vetoing concealed carry laws passed by Republicans in the Legislature. And one possible candidate to succeed Doyle was none other than Barrett himself. The prospects for stronger state laws to reduce gun violence never looked better.

Then, a baffling thing happened. Chief Flynn and District Attorney Chisholm called a press conference to publicly throw in the towel on concealed carry.

As a result of a coordinated, state-by-state campaign by the National Rifle Association, Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two states in the country that still ban residents from obtaining permits for the concealed carry of deadly weapons.

The goofy NRA ideology claims more guns equal more public safety, when, in fact, the exact opposite is true.

In the vivid, B-movie imaginations of NRA supporters, criminals are afraid to rob or assault citizens in states allowing concealed carry because they never know when Granny is going to pull out a gun and plug them between the eyes.

In truth, people who point guns at other people are far more likely to use their guns if they fear their victims might be armed. And law-abiding citizens who pack heat aren’t nearly as quick on the draw or cavalier about shooting fellow human beings as bad guys.

More deadly weapons on the street mean more deadly weapons on the street. The more handguns around to kill human beings, the more human beings will be killed.

Why Change Positions?

So why in the world would Flynn and Chisholm come out in favor of concealed carry when police officers and district attorneys across the state have been among the strongest forces against concealed carry?

Only the rare law enforcement official pandering to the right wing, such as Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, wants police officers to have to fear every citizen they stop is armed with a deadly weapon.

Flynn and Chisholm said they were willing to give up the ban on concealed carry in exchange for stronger background checks, laws controlling the sale of guns at gun shows and between individuals and tough restrictions on who should be permitted to carry a concealed weapon.

But why are these guys negotiating with themselves?

If they want tougher controls on private gun sales and gun shows, they should simply propose them.

As long as Wisconsin stands strong against concealed carry, there is no need to negotiate over who should be allowed to endanger their fellow citizens by carrying concealed weapons in public.

Doyle and the Democrats in the Legislature already showed they could stand up to the pro-gun lobby and not only survive politically, but actually increase their numbers in the Legislature.

So far, Barrett, part of a coalition of mayors across the country led by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg seeking tougher gun laws, stands firm against concealed carry.

Law enforcement officials from the state’s largest urban area, which experiences the most human destruction from handguns on its streets, should be the last ones to propose watering down their own anti-gun proposals.


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