Wisconsin permitless carry legislation up for Senate committee vote

Four months after holding lengthy public hearings on a constitutional carry bill, lawmakers on a key committee are set to vote on it this week.

The measure, SB 169, is scheduled Tuesday for a vote before the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety and would retain the state’s concealed carry permitting system for those who want it while making it optional for those who want to carry without a license. The Republican-controlled body heard extensive testimony on the proposal in May but only announced last week it was ready to schedule a vote.

Introduced by lawmakers in March, the bill repeals and amends several of Wisconsin’s firearms laws. Besides allowing concealed carry without a license — unlicensed open carry is already legal — the measure adds provisions for electronic weapons to the books, trims allowable gun free zones and streamlines the current language on guns in vehicles. It also updates Wisconsin’s definition of “antique firearms” and modifies statutes on carrying firearms while “shining” or spotlighting animals.

According to figures from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, the state issued or renewed 109,701 concealed carry permits in 2016 alone. DOJ spokesman Johnny Koremenos told Wisconsin Public Radio there were 331,323 concealed carry permit holders as of mid-August.

The bill has the support of gun rights groups including the National Rifle Association, Wisconsin Carry and the Wisconsin Firearms Coalition who contend it is a reasonable expansion of protections to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment.

Opposing the measure are the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, Wisconsin Association of School Boards, and Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance, in addition to gun control organizations who argue polling paid for by the groups found that 91 percent of respondents back the current concealed carry permitting scheme.

A successful vote in committee could send the measure to the Senate floor which in turn could put it in the House for additional votes.

Wisconsin’s avowedly pro-Second Amendment governor, Scott Walker, signaled in June that he may be unreceptive to a constitutional carry bill.

So far this year both North Dakota and New Hampshire have approved constitutional carry, bringing the number of states that have adopted the practice to at least 12. Lawmakers in two other states, South Dakota and Montana, approved similar proposals only to see them vetoed by their respective governors.

Update 9/19 10:24 p.m. Wisconsin Public Radio reports the measure passed in a partisan 3-2 vote.