In the wake of recent shootings, including two in Wisconsin, state legislators are introducing bills that would require background checks for people purchasing guns, clarify statutes on school boards hiring armed guards and ban concealed carry in the Capitol building.
Sen. Nikiya Harris, D-Milwaukee, introduced a bill Wednesday that would generally ban people from selling or transferring a gun unless they did it through a federally licensed firearms dealer. The person receiving the gun would also have to undergo a background check.
The bill would exempt background checks for selling or transferring guns between dealers, transferring a handgun where a waiting period under current law does not apply, transferring a gun as part of an inheritance and temporary transfers with a legal purpose.
Lisa Bahr, Harris’ spokesperson, said the legislation reflects a common sentiment among most Wisconsinites. Bahr said a March Marquette University Poll showed 81 percent of Wisconsinites support requiring background checks on people who purchase guns at private gun shows.
“[This bill] will keep guns out of hands of people who shouldn’t have access,” Bahr said.
Bahr added federal legislation passed in 1993-1994 requiring background checks of people who purchase guns from licensed dealers prevented 1.7 million people from acquiring guns.
Bahr also said a shooting last November at a Brookfield spa, where a gunman killed three individuals, demonstrated the need for the bill. She said the shooter purchased his gun through legal means without receiving a background check.
However, she said he should not have been able to get a gun since he had a restraining order against him, which a background check would have discovered.
“This is a bill that could save a lot of lives without taking away people’s Second Amendment rights,” Bahr said.
A group of Republican legislators also introduced a bill Wednesday that would clarify state statutes to make it clearer that school boards can hire armed guards.
According to the bill, current law prohibits a person from possessing a firearm in a school zone, but makes exceptions in accordance with federal law.
Rep. Don Pridemore, R-Erin, said the bill does not make any changes to current law or state statues but does simplify the language of state rules to make it clearer to local school boards and let them know that they can hire guards.
“If people have questions, they can consult the statutes,” Pridemore said. “This change doesn’t promote or change anything. Statutes can get confused after [some] years and some things get muddied up.”
Pridemore said he introduced the bill in response to recent school shootings, such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Pridemore added decisions on whether or not to hire guards should be left up to the school boards and not the state.
“It’s a local issue,” Pridemore said. “School boards should settle it as they see fit.”
Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, has also said he would introduce a bill exempting the Capitol from the state’s concealed carry law. In a March statement, Risser said because of Capitol Police presence, people’s safety will not be at risk by prohibiting concealed carry in the building.
However, Rep. Michael Schraa, R-Oshkosh, said in a March statement the bill does not provide for metal detectors or increased police protection, which he said would allow people to bring in weapons to the Capitol.
Schraa said Risser’s bill would place citizens at risk since they could not protect themselves.
“I guess Senator Risser wants those in the Capitol to be completely defenseless,” Schraa said.