Within the past three months Wisconsin has been the site of two major mass shootings, which have resulted in the deaths of 11 people, including the shooters themselves. In response to these shootings, two Democratic state legislators intend to reintroduce a bill that would place stricter laws on gun control.
Senator Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee and Representative Penny Benard Schaber, D-Appleton are proposing legislation that would require individuals who have restraining orders placed against them to surrender their firearms within 48 hours. Failure to do so would result in a warrant being issued for the gun-owner’s arrest.
However, whether or not this bill would actually prevent shootings has been called into question by Jeff Nass, president of Wisconsin Force. Nass has said “We don’t think [this bill] would have stopped this crime…to use this tragedy to reintroduce this bill is not logical.”
I disagree. Considering the fact that two mass shootings have taken place in Wisconsin, and in such a short period of time, the reintroduction of this bill is completely logical. Any legislation that will produce any kind of law that will prevent such atrocities from taking place will be beneficial.
Whether or not this particular piece of legislation would have prevented these particular shootings is irrelevant. The terrible fact is that they did happen and that there are major loopholes within the guns laws of our state.
This proposed legislation is not a substitute for providing comprehensive gun control laws, but it is a step forward in the right direction. Rome wasn’t built in a day; similarly, a standard for adequate gun control cannot be created with a single piece of legislation. We must build adequate gun control piece by piece, but first we need to have a foundation for it to stand on.
This legislation begins by enforcing laws which aim to prevent individuals who have proven they cannot be trusted with guns from owning them. In a statement following the Haughton shooting, Taylor said “Across Wisconsin there are inconsistent standards, or sometimes none at all, for the collection of weapons owned by domestic abusers.”
A standard for the collection and enforcement of firearms is possible. When this bill was first introduced in 2009 it was passed in a bipartisan vote by the Assembly. The bill also received support from groups with interests in law and corrections, such as the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association and State Bar Association. However, the bill faced damning opposition from the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun organizations.
Now, I understand that many people are afraid the government is coming to take away their guns – however, there is no basis for such a fear. Most politicians try to distance themselves as far as possible from anything that could be seen as an infringement upon second amendment right – mostly because it is a guaranteed form of political suicide.
The difference in this piece of legislation is that citizens are not being told that no one can have a gun, but only that those who have proven themselves to be unqualified to handle a firearm should not have one.
I am continually reminded by pro-gun groups that firearm sales are up while gun related crimes have dropped. While a drop in gun crime is good, many factors are at play when we analyze the causes of these two trends – they are not necessarily related. For instance, there is a dispute in the significance in the increase of guns sales. It means more guns are being sold, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate that more people are buying guns. It could mean that people who already have guns are buying more guns.
So, if you are a law abiding citizen and you want to own 40 different kinds of rifles, semi-automatics and handguns, more power to you. However, we still need strong guns laws in place to keep guns out of the hands of untrustworthy individuals. The legislation proposed by Taylor and Schaber can do just that.
We have a culture in America that loves guns. We love the power they give us, we love protection they can provide and we love the freedom they have brought us. But we forget sometimes that guns are not toys – they are a dangerous and deadly objects that can have disastrous consequences when placed in the hands of people who should not have them.
Jared Mehre ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in political science and sociology with certificates in criminal justice and German.