Wisconsin Legislature to Mull Merits of Concealed Carry

The Wisconsin state legislature is poised to again debate a law that would allow its residents to carry concealed firearms, reigniting previous debates about the merits of concealed and constitutional carry. The legislative drafts echo the efforts of similar bills that were passed by the Wisconsin legislature on two previous occasions, only to be vetoed by then-Governor Jim Doyle, a democrat. But with Gov. Scott Walker and his republican party enjoying a current legislative majority, the passing of a concealed carry bill seems eminent.

The latest round of legislative efforts includes two separate drafts of bills co-authored by Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, and Rep. Jeff Mursau, R-Crivitz. One draft would allow concealed carry without the need for a license, while the other includes licensing as a prerequisite.

In a statement following the release of the Mursau-Galloway drafts, Jeff Mursau said, “Crime goes down when concealed carry is legalized; it’s time for Wisconsin to fully recognize the right of all its citizens to preserve their security and the security of their families…Criminals in Wisconsin are going to have to start asking themselves if their potential crimes are worth the risk of encountering someone ready to fully defend themselves.”

Although Mursau and Galloway’s efforts have gained the support of several contingencies, including the Wisconsin Gun Owners group, some law enforcement agencies and others remain unconvinced. In past debates, the Wisconsin Professional Police Association has maintained a neutral stance due largely to a divide in opinion between rural and urban officers. However, the recent drafting of a bill lacking permit requirements for concealed carry has been met with marked skepticism. Said Executive Director Jim Palmer, “Our group is likely to revisit our stance…We’ve been overwhelmed with members opposing that [lack of a permit requirement]. It just seems absurd.”

Of the two current bills being debated, one requires concealed carry applicants to be 21 or older and apply for a five-year permit costing $65. The second bill, echoing the constitutional carry model, would allow lawful gun owners age 21 and older to carry a concealed weapon in nearly all public places, with the exception of courthouses, police stations, jails, and school grounds. Both bills prohibit felons and the mentally incompetent from concealed carry.

Opponents of the bill have voiced concerns about violent crime increases in states permitting concealed carry. Jeff Boniva, director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, echoes these sentiments, stating, “If we look at the states with experience, it only leads to one thing: more tragedy…Research that has been done shows there does exist a correlation between conceal carry laws and firearm death rates; in those states that have the loosest laws, they typically have the highest rates of homicides by firearms.”

Proponents of the bill, however, hail it as a long overdue piece of legislation that upholds basic constitutional rights. In any case, the passing of some form of the drafted bills seems likely. James Fendry, director of the Wisconsin Pro Gun Movement, has little doubt that the legislation’s passing is a foregone conclusion. Said Fendry, “The time has come. Even Illinois is working on it. It’s only whether Wisconsin will be the 49th or 50th state.” Fendry’s statement comes on the heels of an Illinois legislative vote that struck down a concealed carry vote late last week.

Thursday, a Senate committee will weigh the merits of both bills in a hearing at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County, while an Assembly at the state Capitol will mull the version of the bill requiring permits.