I think it is safe to say that after the Nov. 7 elections, any hope for the passage of concealed-carry legislation in the state is effectively, and thankfully, dead. With the shift of power in the Wisconsin Senate, a more equal number of Republicans and Democrats in the state Assembly and Gov. Jim Doyle still sitting securely behind the governor's desk, residents can rest assured that their legislators will work to find sensible solutions to fixing some of the state's most pressing issues.
Last year, when Gov. Doyle vetoed the "Personal Protection Act" — a bill that would have legalized carrying concealed weapons in most public places — and the Assembly failed to garner enough votes for a veto override, several Republicans in the state vowed to keep their efforts alive.
The authors of the Protection Act, then-state Sen. Dave Zien, R-Eau Claire, and current Rep. Scott Gunderson, R-Waterford, drafted the legislation allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed guns, knifes and billy clubs in public. And while it was not the first such bill passed by the Legislature, it was also not the first to receive the swift signature of Gov. Doyle's veto pen.
As is the norm in any form of government, if at first your bill doesn't succeed, try, try again. And in cases like the proposed gay marriage ban, lawmakers often draft constitutional amendments after a governor repeatedly stonewalls their attempts.
The next logical step in their quest for concealed carry would have been for Republicans to take the vetoed legislation and tweak it into a constitutional amendment. Had the composition of the Legislature not changed, they would likely be drawing up blueprints for such an undertaking.
And luckily, Zien, who has been pushing concealed-carry measures since the Thompson years, was defeated in the Nov. 7 elections. His constituency was so disillusioned with his tenure in office, they opted to oust him with the hopes that his opponent could do better.
The authors and proponents of concealed-carry laws claim they are necessary to increase public safety and they often cite this reasoning: Giving "law-abiding citizens" practical carte blanche to carry concealed weapons will make everyone safer because if said citizen encounters a criminal with a weapon, the citizen will be able to protect himself and the other "good guys" around him. While it is all well and good that this law-abiding citizen has taken the necessary measures to legally carry a concealed weapon, it doesn't guarantee he will be able to use the weapon appropriately if caught in a stressful situation.
For example, Madison has seen a record-breaking spate of bank robberies this year, and though it may be troubling to bankers and patrons alike, the robberies all have one thing in common: No one was hurt during them. Had some cowboy with a handgun seen one of the robberies taking place from outside and decided to take matters into his own hands, things may have ended differently. Perhaps he would have stopped the robbery and apprehended the suspect, or perhaps an innocent bystander would have gotten injured or killed.
There are reasons why those who can currently carry weapons — police — have to go through such extensive training. The rationale that allowing everyday people to carry weapons in public will make people safer, regardless of what criminals may be packing illegally, is ludicrous. Two wrongs do not make a right; and two weapons, no matter whose hands they are in, are by no means safer than one.
Carolyn Smith ([email protected]) is a continuing student at UW.