A proposal from Republican legislators would make Wisconsin the second state in the nation to allow complete concealed carry on their public college and university campuses.
Jeff Nass, legislative affairs liaison for Wisconsin Force, said the campus carry act would give a person on campus the ability to protect him or herself from someone who chooses to misuse their size, gender or any form of a weapon. He said the act promotes student safety.
“Being able to defend yourself is 100 percent safety oriented,” Nass said.
According to a statement from the National Conference of State Legislatures, if the campus carry bill is passed, Wisconsin will join just one other state, Utah, in having a statute specifically naming public colleges and universities public entities. This title prohibits the institutions from banning concealed carry and gives anyone with appropriate licensure the ability to carry weapons on their property.
Chuck Stellmacher, secretary and treasurer of the Central Wisconsin Gun Collectors Association, said many recent shootings have occurred in gun-free zones. In these cases, law-abiding victims and bystanders did not have the ability to protect themselves from the armed threats he said.
Currently, some states allow concealed carry on their college campuses while others do not, Stellmacher said.
“I’m in favor of the fact that you would be able to protect yourself if the need arises,” Stellmacher said.
Ray Cross, UW System president, and UW System chancellors said in a joint statement they could not support the bill because of significant concerns and questions regarding its safety.
Alex Hummel, UW System spokesperson, said System officials and chancellors are discussing specifics of the bill and how it would impact Wisconsin students with the authors of the bill, Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum and Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg. They are also looking at how Wisconsin would compare to other states if the act is implemented.
“It’s pretty early obviously, but we’re having a good discussion with all the authors,” Hummel said.
Reps. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, Chris Taylor, D-Madison, and Terese Berceau, D-Madison, proposed a bill which would have the opposite impact on UW campuses.
The college campus dangerous weapon ban bill would completely prohibit concealed carry of deadly weapons on public campuses, Sargent said. There have been over 40,000 incidents of gun violence in the United States, which has made it an “epidemic,” she said. Nineteen other states have outlawed concealed carry, she said.
“We do not live in a Mad Max world,” Sargent said. “We need to have some gun control.”
Sargent said an increase in opportunities to use guns would not lead to safer learning environments. Taking a concealed carry class and getting a permit does not make one capable of handling a firearm in a crisis situation, she said.
Taylor said campuses are some of the safest places for students because they do not allow weapons. Alcohol consumption that often occurs on college campuses mixed with a firearm could increase the risk of gun violence, she said.
Taylor said the U.S. has the highest homicide rate among all industrialized nations.
“If guns reduced violence, we’d be the safest nation in the world, and guess what we aren’t,” Taylor said.
Nass said criminals have no regard for the law in any case so passing a bill to extend concealed carry would help innocent people defend themselves. He said if someone wants to hurt another person, a sign that says”no firearms” would not stop them.
Nass said law-abiding citizens should be allowed to exercise their rights in any public place. He said restricting concealed carry rights is to the detriment of citizen safety since it can prevent their abilities to defend themselves.
Nass said the campus carry act is important because other self-defense mechanisms may not be as effective. He cited mechanisms like martial arts are only effective if the user practiced them for a long period of time prior to encountering a threat. A firearm is a simpler tool to use for self defense because it is easier to master and often makes one superior to their attackers, Nass said.
Stellmacher said while the act has support, there are still people who are completely against any gun ownership and may impact the progression of the bill.