GOP lawmaker calls for Wisconsin citizens to ‘stand up and fight back’ after East Towne shooting

A Republican Wisconsin lawmaker is defending his comments on the heels of a shooting at East Towne Mall Saturday.

Rep. Bob Gannon, R-West Bend, said in a press release Monday morning that he doesn’t feel safe in malls or on university campuses, despite extra security, and calls gun-free zone signs “the universal symbol that is now referred to as a ‘target rich environment.'”

The statement advocates for the passage of Assembly Bill 363, which would allow students, faculty and visitors with conceal carry permits to have guns on University of Wisconsin System campuses.

“Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scum bags,” the statement said. “A gang banger in the mall with a gun is going to think twice if there could be a law abiding CCW holder standing behind them fully prepared to shoot center mass, as this is how you’re trained to eliminate the threat these creeps pose to you, your family, and all law abiding citizens unwillingly dragged into their public crime spree.”

State Democrats swiftly denounced the statement, saying Gannon’s rhetoric is “dangerous.”

“The incident at East Towne Mall was scary, but the answer is not to add more people with guns to the mix, and certainly not to call for private citizens to ‘shoot center mass,'” Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said in a statement Monday. “Representative Gannon is living in a James Bond dream world. If more guns made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world.”

In her statement, Taylor cites a Stanford University study that links conceal carry laws to an increase in violent crime.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, also denounced Gannon’s statement.

“Rep. Gannon’s rhetoric seems to be about as over the top as you can get,” Fitzgerald said Monday. “However the premise of concealed carry and the more public places there are where someone can concealed carry is a deterrent to some of these types of situations that we’ve seen.”

Fitzgerald said he didn’t believe Gannon’s comments would help with expansion of concealed carry laws.

“I’m not sure exactly why he was so over the top but you gotta have a legitimate discussion about it and I don’t know that that type of rhetoric helps with that,” Fitzgerald said.

Gannon defended his statement in subsequent interviews Monday.

“All of my comments in life are brash. I have no ability to filter it,” Gannon said. “I’m going to tell you what I really feel and let the chips fall where they may. We’ve been beating around the bush with crime in this state for a long time and I’ll tell you what, it’s not working.”

Police said Saturday’s shooting at East Towne Mall stemmed from a disturbance between a few young men, resulting in at least one round being fired.

A 19-year-old was hit in the leg by a bullet during the incident and was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, officials said.

Police are still looking for a suspect in the shooting. Anyone with information on the gunman is urged to contact Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 266-6014.