Heated debate over bill to allow concealed carry without permit, training

Bill would allow guns in school zones
Heated debate over bill to allow concealed carry without permit, training

An effort to allow people to carry concealed weapons without training or permits drew a large crowd to the state Capitol Wednesday.

The bill proposed by Sen. Dave Craig, R-Town of Vernon, and Rep. Mary Felzkowski, R-Irma, would roll back some of the current concealed-carry laws and got a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Right now, anyone who carries a concealed weapon must obtain a permit and get training. The bill unveiled in March would do away with those requirements, saying that those who carry openly are not required to get that training.

“I can openly carry without a license, or government-mandated training,” said Annette Olson of St. Croix County. “Why does covering it up or putting it in my purse matter?”

Heated debate over bill to allow concealed carry without permit, training

The bill also would create a new permit for carrying concealed weapons on school grounds unless the school has prohibited the practice. That permit would require a background check but no training.

A lobbyist for the Wisconsin Association of School Boards testified that their members opposed the bill because of concerns over safety. Baraboo school board member Doug Mering testified that the local police chief had informed the board that the bill would make “determining who is the bad guy” for two school resource officers more difficult.

“In an active-shooter situation, it creates an environment that would be difficult to control where the likelihood of an innocent person getting shot will be much higher,” Mering said.

The measure would preserve the current permit system with training for people who need a permit to carry in other states.

Scott Meyer, a National Rifle Association lobbyist, while testifying about the need to roll back the training requirement, told the committee that guns were a great equalizer for “the blacks.”

Meyer told the committee that the cost of training can prevent minorities from obtaining concealed carry licenses, adding that guns were one of the great equalizers for “the blacks” after emancipation.

Sen. Lena Taylor, a Milwaukee Democrat who is black, chastised Meyer. She told him calling African-Americans “the blacks” doesn’t help cultural diversity.

According to the National Rifle Association, 12 other states already allow concealed carry without a permit.

But that was not a consolation for a number of members of Moms Demand Action, an anti-violence organization started after schoolchildren were killed in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.

“What you are saying is taking one of the few safe places we have, our schools, and turning it into a war zone,” said Nicki Vander Meulen, who told the committee that she was the first Madison School Board member with autism and feared for the safety of those with disabilities. “I worry very simply that if we get rid of the Gun-Free Schools Act you’re going to have someone on the playground acting weird, suspicious, dangerous, and who is to say they’re not going to get shot? Who is going to say with less than four hours of training they are going to be able to make those decisions?”

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel said in written testimony Wednesday that the bill would be a “reasonable policy decision” by the legislature.

The committee will have to vote before the bill could move forward.