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President's gun proposals stir debate

Wisconsin mass shootings helped inform president's proposals

MILTON, Wis. - President Obama's proposals for curbing gun violence are prompting some strong emotions from people on both sides of the debate.

The president on Wednesday announced a $500 million package of executive actions and legislative proposals, including a call to ban military-style assault weapons.

Reno Garthwaite, owner of Thunder Shooting Supplies in Milton, said versatility is one of the reasons some gun enthusiasts like the AR-style rifle.

"You can change it to a 22 all the way up to a 450," Garthwaite said.

He said that since the election, business is up 100 percent. Many customers are looking for AR-style rifles similar to what was used in the Connecticut school shooting.

"For coyote hunters, they love this gun," Garthwaite said. "Vermin hunters that go out in the spring prairie dog shooting out west, they love this gun. It's the No. 1 gun they take."

He said his store is struggling to keep up with the demand for the AR-style rifles and high-capacity handguns. Garthwaite said banning one type of weapon isn't going to help.

"(AR-style rifles), they've got this military look and that scares people. But there are other rifles that do the same thing with a lot more power," he said.

Garthwaite said he also recommends his customers purchase a safe so they have a place to keep their firearm.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence said it's concerned about guns getting into the wrong hands.

"Assault weapons are rarely used in domestic-violence homicides. More typically, it's a handgun or a rifle," said Patti Seger, executive director of the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.


The group has been tracking domestic-violence homicides since 1999.

"We have found that there were 50 people who have been killed in Wisconsin where the killer was prohibited from possessing a firearm," Seger said. "Those killings were preventable and the loopholes in the system failed to protect those victims."

Seger and Garthwaite said they support universal background checks.

They're hoping lawmakers are able to strike the right balance to curb crime and allow law-abiding citizens to exercise their right to own a firearm.

"Calm down, take a serious look at this stuff rather than rushing to judgment on this," Garthwaite said.

"We have an opportunity here to say, 'Enough with the killing; enough with the loss of life.' Those lives are too valuable," Seger said.

Some of the president's proposals are related to recent shootings in Wisconsin. Seger was one of many people invited to the White House to talk to leaders. In addition to the shootings in Newtown, Conn., she said the Oak Creek Sikh temple shooting and Brookfield spa shooting helped inspire some of the president's plans.

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