Madison high school students joined Assembly Democrats Tuesday to call on legislative leaders to take action on gun safety measures to protect students.
After previewing his priorities for this week’s floor session, Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, said the biggest issue in this state and country is what is not being addressed. He then gave the floor to high school sophomore Lydia Hester who is concerned about gun violence in Wisconsin.
“Compulsory education laws state I am legally required to attend school, I should feel safe in a place where I am legally required to be,” Hester said. “How do you expect students to be successful when they have to worry about themselves, their friends and their teachers being shot?”
School shootings have been a reality for Hester her whole life, she said. Learning how to sit under a desk and be quiet as a 5-year-old is not something students should have to do, she added.
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Assembly Democrats sent a letter to Gov. Scott Walker, Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Speaker Robin Vos, asking them to take action on “common sense gun safety” measures.
Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, was one of the members to sign the letter and believes Wisconsin can do more.
“As a State Legislature, we have the ability to take action to save lives,” Sargent said. “The bills that we want to move are just a handful of many proposals that have been made over the last number of sessions that we know are pragmatic and will actually save lives because they have done so in other communities.”
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The requested bills include Assembly Bill 65, Senate Bill 34, Assembly Bill 567, Senate bill 563 and Assembly Bill 616. These bills would institute universal background checks, prohibit individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing a firearm, and prohibit the sale, manufacture, transfer, use or possession of bump stocks, respectively.
Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, believes these bills are an important step in the right direction.
“We know [these laws] can save lives, we know that background checks can keep weapons out of peoples hands that are dangerous to themselves or the people around them,” Taylor said. “Twenty percent of gun sales have no checks on them at all.”
There is no reason the U.S. is one of the deadliest countries in the world, Taylor said. Something can be done changing that.
Taylor also said student support, especially college students’ voices, can help lead the fight for stricter gun control laws.
“And I think college students’ voices are so important as well,” Taylor said. “It should be a Big Ten effort to get rid of gun violence.”
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According to the Assembly Democrats’ letter, thoughts and prayers are not enough anymore, and making sure dangerous people do not have access to guns should be first priority. Additionally, the letter stated these bills are a real way the state of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin children can be kept safe.
According to a press release from Taylor’s office, this effort follows a school shooting in Florida that occurred on Feb. 14 in which a 19-year-old entered a school with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, killing 17 people. This was the eighth school shooting in 2018, and one of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern history, the release said.
“This has been a very deadly year for students in schools,” Sargent said. “The students that were here in the capitol building today, were saying that it is time for us to take proactive, common sense steps to address gun safety in Wisconsin. People are dying every single day in our country at a rate which does not match any other country in the world. We are doing something wrong here in America.”