The Wisconsin State Senate challenged Gov. Jim Doyle's recent veto, voting 23 to 10 Thursday to uphold a bill that would allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.
"[I am] happy to see the Democrats that had supported the bill when it first went through the Senate stuck to their guns and voted to override the governor today," said Mike Prentiss, spokesperson for bill co-sponsor Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.
Authored by Sen. Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire, Senate Bill 403 was passed by both the Senate and Assembly last year before Doyle rejected it last Friday.
Bill backers expressed hope the Assembly would follow suit and also vote to override the governor's veto.
Though rare, a legislative override is a feasible feat in the case of SB 403. Sixty-four representatives approved the initiative in the initial vote and a two-thirds majority of 66 is necessary to override the veto.
According to Prentiss, an override is possible because two key Republican representatives were absent from the vote last year.
However, Prentiss said there is currently speculation over whether two Democrats who originally supported the bill will change their votes.
"From what we've heard, it sounds like the governor is kind of pulling out all the stops and trying to get [Reps. John Steinbrink, D-Pleasant Prairie, and Terry Van Akkeren, D-Sheboygan] to change their votes so that this governor doesn't become the first Wisconsin governor to have a veto overridden in decades," Prentiss said.
Though Rep. Pedro Colón, D-Milwaukee, said he is hopeful an override does not happen, he added there is currently "no way of telling" the outcome.
Private Protection Act supporters say the measure, if signed into law, will provide citizens the constitutional right to protect themselves.
However, opponents argue that such a law would prove hazardous to public safety.
SB 403 would allow concealed weapons in such public places as shopping malls, banks, parades and the state Capitol.
"There is no socially redeeming purpose for this bill whatsoever. It's unnecessary and it's undesirable," Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, said. "As soon as you have more guns, you have more problems."
Risser specifically cited the dangers associated with concealed carry, mentioning police officials do not support the bill.
"This bill is the only bill in the country on concealed weapons that does not require positive identification of the person getting licensed," Risser said, referring to the bill's lack of fingerprint requirements.
Risser, along with Colón, said such a lack of positive identification does not allow police officials to know exactly who is in possession of a gun.
SB 403 supporters argue, however, that opponents' discontent is exaggerated.
"Forty-six other states have similar concealed-carry statutes," Prentiss said. "It's my understanding that in those 46 states, not a single person who went through the training and permitting process … has ever been convicted on a gun-related crime."
According to Zien spokesperson John Hogan, certain safety provisions have been added to the bill as amendments. The legal blood-alcohol content for a carrier of a concealed weapon would be lowered from .08 to .02 percent, a 100-foot barrier would be put in place around schools and a retraining program would be required every five years.
Amendments also stipulate concealed weapons would not be allowed inside certain facilities, including schools, hospitals, domestic-violence shelters and university buildings.
Guns would, however, be allowed on the University of Wisconsin campus, a provision many bill opponents cite as dangerous.
But Prentiss maintains, "The vast body of evidence seems to suggest that the Democrats' concerns are more based on rhetoric than they are on reality."
An Assembly vote is expected soon.