The state of Wisconsin has seen 100 gun homicides so far this year and in light of this escalation, groups across the state are proposing strategies to combat the misuse of firearms statewide.
Although it is difficult to pinpoint one cause for the rise in crime, there are steps that both individual gun owners and society can take to increase gun safety, Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, said.
Before purchasing a firearm, potential gun owners should assess their living situation and decide whether their environment is safe for gun ownership, she said. If anyone in the home has a history of alcohol abuse, substance abuse or violence then statistically the risks may outweigh the benefits, Bonavia said.
On a broader scale, the key to curbing statewide gun violence will be keeping the hands out of criminals and “truly dangerous people,” Bonavia said.
The majority of the people who are found guilty of gun homicide have a history of “very serious” charges, which were either dropped or for which they served no jail time, Wisconsin state NRA’s WI-Force executive director Jeff Nass, said. The state’s prosecution is notorious for allowing these people to continue to roam Wisconsin’s streets, he said.
According to Nass, this is why although WI-Force encourages prosecution of criminals, the group opposes further gun restrictions because they inconvenience law abiding citizens who he says are not the problem.
“Bad people can and do have access to instruments that they can use in crime, whether it’s a firearm or anything else,” Nass said. “They don’t worry about doing things legally … The problem isn’t the firearms, it’s the criminals.”
Bonavia said she disagrees and that further background checks are necessary to promote fewer homicides.
Right now, criminals have a very large marketplace to go to when looking for a gun because they can participate in these gun sales anonymously, Bonavia said. They don’t have to show ID, they don’t have to have a background check and no paperwork is kept, she said.
To truly make a difference in statewide gun homicide, people will need to stop thinking of gun regulation as a partisan issue, Bonavia said. Although the GOP had sweeping victories in the Nov. 4 election, the general makeup of the legislature has not changed significantly since WAVE helped pass further gun restrictions for domestic abusers last year, she said.
“I think that this issue is critical for both Democrats and Republicans because lives are at stake,” Bonavia said. “If we can get rid of the notion that this is a politically divisive issue and really focus on the outcome, saving lives, that we want then I think that Republicans have just as much of a reason to work on this as Democrats.”
Although Nass said he believes law abiding citizens are over-regulated in Wisconsin, he said the state is middle-of-the road for gun regulation nationally.
Nass said he promotes fewer gun restrictions, however, he said WI-Force knows that even though law abiding citizens want a safe society, there are certain people that are not willing to cooperate and follow the law. Those are the people that should be prosecuted, Nass said.
“We aren’t against prosecuting people who are misusing firearms,” Nass said. “We actually encourage it.”