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Issue of the Week: Let’s Talk About Reducing Gun Violence

Jul. 17, 2013
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Too often, those who are upset about gun violence throw their hands up in the air and say that the problem is too big to solve.

Yes, reducing gun violence is a big problem and we may never be truly rid of it. But there are some common-sense steps we can take to make our communities safer.

One proposed solution is to require background checks before any firearm sale, something that upwards of 80% of all Americans, including gun owners and National Rifle Association (NRA) members, support. Currently, only federally licensed firearm dealers are required to conduct background checks before making a sale. That leaves a huge loophole in state and federal law, since those who would fail a background check and seek to commit a crime can find a gun owner who is willing to sell a lethal weapon to them cheaply, anonymously and quickly. That’s apparently how Radcliffe Haughton got a hold of his gun last year, before killing three women and injuring four others at the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield.

Wisconsin Democrats have proposed a smart universal background check bill in both houses of the state Legislature that exempts those who want to give a gun to a relative or temporarily lend one to someone they know. We believe that the bill respects Wisconsin’s lawful sporting traditions while reducing the number of guns used in crimes and helping law enforcement to trace guns used in crimes.

Unfortunately, Republicans are killing the bill.

State Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee told the Shepherd that he and his allies are trying to get their Republican colleagues in the Assembly on board, but, “sadly,” the bill is stuck in committee.

State Sen. Nikiya Harris of Milwaukee sent a request for a hearing to Sen. Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon), who chairs the Senate committee in which the background check bill is stalled. Harris’s office told the Shepherd that Petrowski said he would “look into it.”

We understand that NRA-supported lawmakers are fearful that they will lose support in upcoming elections if they seem to be “weak” on the Second Amendment. But we’re asking Republican legislators to give this bill a robust hearing so that Wisconsinites can be heard. If, after hearing all of the testimony, Republican lawmakers still believe that criminals who would fail a background check should have easy access to cheap guns, then they should go on record in favor of that.

Wisconsin can respect the Second Amendment and our hunting traditions and become safer if those who should not own a gun cannot get their hands on a gun. Let’s debate the universal background check bill and come up with a solution.


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