As of March, Wisconsin has issued 300,000 total concealed carry permits, but the state impact of right-to-carry laws is still widely debated.
While this makes up less than 8 percent of Wisconsin’s adult population, concealed carry laws remain controversial. Those in favor argue concealed carry falls under one’s right to defend themselves, while those against say violent crime increases when concealed carry is allowed.
Sixty-three percent of Wisconsin residents support concealed carry and 31 percent are opposed, according to the January 2016 Marquette Law School poll.
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University of Wisconsin journalism and mass communication professor Michael Wagner said concealed carry impacts almost every Wisconsinite. He said 8 percent is a large enough percentage to enter into almost every social situation.
“If you’re in a room of 30 people, somewhere between two or three are probably armed,” Wagner said. “That’s just something that might give people pause when they’re out in the community.”
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said she believes the number of permits that have been issued is significant and “alarming.” The Department of Justice had to add eight new positions just to process the new permit requests, Taylor said.
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But Jeff Nass, Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs and Educators executive director, said he thinks the 300,000 permits is a great milestone and would like to see those numbers increase in the future.
“We’re extremely happy that we broke 300,000,” Nass said. “I foresee that number is actually going up as people start to realize that this is their right.”
The people who have concealed carry weapons help protect those who do not have weapons to defend themselves, Nass said. By using conceal carry, Nass said he is protecting his wife and family.
Taylor, however, said research shows most of the time, victims of crimes do not get the chance to use guns to defend themselves. She said it’s more often the case that guns get turned against them.
Taylor said she is concerned about the new concealed carry permits being issued because recent research from Stanford University demonstrates that right-to-carry laws are connected with an increase in aggregated assault, rape, robbery and murder.
“I’m not a fan of concealed carry at all because of this epidemic,” Taylor said. “I wish this law was never passed.”
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Additionally, Taylor said Milwaukee law enforcement leaders have tied Wisconsin’s concealed carry law to a decade high of homicides seen in Milwaukee in 2015.
But Wagner said there are too many different variables to definitively make this conclusion. He said it is unclear whether or not gun violence is linked to concealed carry because it’s hard to separate violent crimes from other influencing factors, like the state of the economy.
“There’s not … terrific evidence on one side or the other that concealed weapons reduce or increase crime,” Wagner said.
Wagner said the strongest evidence indicates gun accidents are more common in places where concealed carry is legal.
Nass, however, said gun accidents would decrease if children were properly educated about gun safety. He said he hopes schools will implement firearm safety to teach children about guns.
Wisconsin residents are also skeptical of making guns easy to have in places where there are children present, like schools and campuses, Wagner said. For a proposal that would have allowed guns to be concealed carried on school grounds, 65 percent of Wisconsin residents opposed and 31 percent were in favor, according to the Marquette law poll.
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Wagner said Wisconsin residents are divided on their views about concealed weapons, and these differences do not seem like they will be resolved in the near future.
“It’s a controversial issue that’s not going to go away any time soon,” Wagner said.