Wisconsin ditches waiting period for handguns

Gov. Scott Walker ended Wisconsin's 48-hour handgun waiting period in the office of Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke. (Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Mike De Sisti)

Gov. Scott Walker ended Wisconsin’s 48-hour handgun waiting period in the office of Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke. (Photo: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel/Mike De Sisti)

Gov. Scott Walker (R) Wednesday signed legislation that formerly ended the state’s nearly 40-year-old mandatory waiting period for  purchases of pistols and revolvers.

The measure, introduced in the state Senate in February, passed that body in a 19-13 vote in April then found concurrence with the Assembly earlier this month. Walker signed the legislation into law at the office of Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke.

Walker told reporters that the event, scheduled more than a week in advance, that the day was focused on Wisconsin’s gun laws and not those in other states as the news cycle dealing with the June 19 shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina continues to endure.

“If we had pulled back on this, I think it would have given people the erroneous opinion that what we signed into law today had anything to do with what happened in Charleston,” the governor said.

The legislation, SB 35, eliminates the arbitrary waiting period for handguns in the state and replaces it with language that would allow a transfer as soon as the firearms dealer gets the background check approval from the state Department of Justice. Current law requires those seeking to buy a pistol or revolver must wait no less than 48 hours even if the background check has been processed. In some instances, current law also allows for a three-day extension of the period as well.

“The forty-eight hour rule took effect in 1976, when Wisconsin did not have an instant background check system; today, DOJ searches up to 11 databases, and many buyers are approved within an hour,” noted a release on the new law from Walker’s office.

Just nine states currently mandate a waiting period in excess of a National Instant Criminal Systems check delay for handgun sales while recent federal court cases have found them unconstitutional and unlikely to stop crime.

Not all in the state were pleased with the new law and took the opportunity to call out Walker on his potential GOP presidential candidacy.

“Instead of heeding the public’s call for common sense reforms that keep us safer, Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have chosen to bolster their credentials with the NRA and other extreme right-wing interest groups. Again, Governor Walker and Republicans put politics ahead of the people of Wisconsin with what is, no doubt, another attempt to shore up right-wing support for the Governor in the 2016 Republican presidential primary,” said state Democratic Rep. Lisa Subeck in a statement.

Notably, both Walker and Sheriff Clarke spoke at the National Rifle Association’s Leadership Forum in Nashville earlier this year.

Walker also signed into law SB 70, which allows retired and off-duty law enforcement officers to carry guns in and near schools. That Republican-backed legislation passed the Senate on a 22-11 vote and was concurred on by the Assembly on a voice vote.

Supporters of the legislation say it’s another means of protecting our children, while some who oppose it claim allowing guns in schools will only scare students and take away the rights of individual schools to keep guns out.

The two bills are now Wisconsin Public Acts 22 and 23, respectively.

Jennifer Cruz contributed to this report.

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