A new concealed carry bill circulating at the Capitol would extend the reach of current law by allowing off-duty and retired law enforcement officials to carry concealed weapons into schools with the proper permit.
Under the state’s concealed carry law, citizens with a license are allowed to carry concealed weapons. Currently, only on-duty police officers are allowed to carry weapons with authorization on a school campus in Wisconsin.
The law also amended state statutes regarding firearms near schools, mandating any individual who knowingly possesses a firearm on school grounds is guilty of a Class I felony. The law defines “school property” as “a public school, parochial or private school or tribal school … which provides an educational program for one or more grades between grades one and 12 and which is commonly known as an elementary school, middle school, junior high school, senior high school or high school.”
Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, drafted a similar bill last session that failed.
University of Wisconsin professor Michael Scott, an expert on police and crime prevention, questioned the need for such officers to go into schools very often to begin with, noting Wisconsin already allows on-duty officers to wear firearms in schools.
“Schools are not necessarily made more safe by having more guns in them,” Scott said.
He said he was not troubled by the idea of allowing retired or off-duty officers to carry concealed weapons and that trained professionals carrying firearms should not be an issue as long as their licenses remain current under law to carry such weapons and they are qualified to do so.
However, in 2011, when the bill predating the concealed carry law was being up for debate, opinions were divided over whether allowing concealed weapons was an effective solution to instances of gun violence—a debate likely to be echoed in discussions surrounding this new legislation.
When the bill for the concealed carry law was being debated, Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz, contended the security that concealed carry provided for families was reason enough to enact the law.
“Crime goes down when concealed carry is legalized; it’s time for Wisconsin to fully recognize the right of all its citizens to preserve their security and the security of their families,” Mursau said in a statement on that bill. “Criminals in Wisconsin are going to have to start asking themselves if their potential crimes are worth the risk of encountering someone ready to fully defend themselves.”
Opponents to this legislation in 2011 voiced concern that the “fighting fire with fire” approach would only lead to more violence.
Jeri Bonavia of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort said she viewed concealed carry as the gateway to more tragedy in an earlier interview with the Herald.
“Research that has been done shows there does exist a correlation between conceal carry laws and firearm death rates; in those states that have the loosest laws, they typically have the highest rates of homicides by firearms,” Bonavia said.