On Friday, it became official: Wisconsinites with a concealed carry permit can bring their guns in any public building they want. Members of the state Senate have said they will likely ban guns in the galleries, but Assembly leaders said they will follow the Department of Administration’s lead and allow guns at their meetings.
While this board sees no reason to need a gun while watching an Assembly debate, we recognize that this law is not entirely about practicality. The Capitol is a destination, and the notion that someone needs a gun at that destination strikes us as problematic. However, the Assembly has chosen to value the right to have a gun nearly anywhere, including their gallery and floor. But, if we are going to be throwing around phrases like “personal freedom,” we need to apply it to more than just deadly firearms.
A rule passed earlier this year banned from galleries cameras, microphones, video equipment, ringing cell phones, signs and a number of behaviors deemed disruptive in both houses. The new limitations – almost certainly passed in response to the wave of protesters making their descent on the Capitol – were reportedly meant to keep distractions to legislators and citizens at a minimum.
To be sure, waving signs and shouting during debate is going to be problematic to both those participating in and watching the session. Silent video recording and non-flash photography, however, does nothing to alter the flow of the meeting, especially considering almost all meetings are already being recorded and photographed by various media outlets.
Clearly, Wisconsin Assembly members value the right to bear arms. But if they think the freedom to carry a gun outweighs any safety threats that may arise, they also need to allow non-disruptive forms of recording, including video, microphones and non-flash photography.