Concealed-carry legislation now faces opposition from several police organizations in the state. The legislation gained momentum last week as it passed the Joint Finance Committee and also garnered the approval of the Wisconsin Troopers Association.
Opposition from police organizations may hinder its support in Wisconsin and require additional amendments.
"I can see how this would make some people in society feel safer, but myself, as a law enforcement officer, it would not make me feel safer knowing there are that many more guns out on the street," Lt. Bradley Florence, a Green Bay Police Department shift supervisor said.
Florence also noted that although concealed-carry licensing would mandate prior training, such training would not ensure proper actions in a "stressful situation."
Dubbed the "Personal Protection Act," the measure would allow citizens in the state to carry concealed guns, electronic weapons, knives or billy clubs in many public areas, but several amendments were added restricting concealed carry under specific conditions.
At the JFC hearing, amendments barring concealed carry in hospitals, daycare centers, and youth sporting events were tagged onto AB 763/SB 403, the two concealed-carry companion bills.
State Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, a co-author of the bill, said the right to carry a concealed weapon was written into both the U.S. and state Constitutions.
"I believe it's a Second Amendment right," Gunderson said. "Also the [Wisconsin] Supreme Court urged the Legislature to move forward with legislation that would allow for people to carry concealed weapons if they felt necessary."
The Wisconsin Troopers Association announced last week it will back the Personal Protection Act due to the addition of a different amendment which would place the names of concealed-carry license holders in a database that police would have access to upon running their license plates during traffic stops.
"These guys truly do believe in the bill — they believe it's the right thing to do," Gunderson said. "We also have the Milwaukee Police Association's support, and they are one of the biggest policings [sic] in the state."
But the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association announced Thursday that despite changes, its members are still against the legislation.
"The current version of the concealed handgun bills need to be drastically rewritten before being adopted by the full Legislature," La Crosse County Sheriff Mike Weissenberger, president of WSDSA, said in a release. "Our association, representing well over 2,000 law enforcement officers through out Wisconsin, strongly opposes the bills the way they are written."
The Wisconsin County Police Association also said it maintains opposition to concealed carry in the state even though the amendments were passed by the JFC.
Passage of the Personal Protection Act would make Wisconsin the 47th state to allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons, Michael Bruhn, a spokesperson for Gunderson, said, noting people in the state should be able to protect themselves.
"It would allow an individual who is at least 21 years of age who goes through a thorough background check and has received training that is approved by the Department of Justice to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon," he said.
In addition, legally intoxicated people would not be allowed to carry concealed weapons; previous provisions in the act would restrict concealed carry in schools, law enforcement, state and government buildings, taverns or restaurants with liquor licenses and beyond airport security points.
Convicted felons or persons with severe physical disabilities would not be allowed to carry concealed weapons.
Gunderson said under the amendments, concealed carry would not be allowed in university buildings in the state, but it would be allowed on campus grounds.
"We've had a lot of university nurses calling and telling us that for whatever reason some of them feel they want the right to carry and protect themselves in their cars," Gunderson said. "We didn't want to prohibit them from having the weapons in their cars, but they can't bring them into the building."