Walker won’t take side on gun control bills
Gov. says he wants to convene meeting of mental health experts
MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker said measures to address mass shootings in Wisconsin may be put into his next state budget, but they’re likely to be pointed at mental health, not gun control.
In a year that was dominated by a historic recall and a presidential election, Walker is looking forward to the state budget and a debate over how to respond to recent mass shootings in the state and across the country.
“There’s going to be a lot of discussion nationally about gun control, and there may be some action by next year when the legislative session starts here,” Walker said. “There may be issues that may be pre-empting anything that could be done at the state level.”
There has been a nationwide call primarily among Democrats for tighter gun control following the shooting of 20 elementary school children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last week.
Walker said legislation shouldn’t be forced to solve a complicated issue.
Walker won’t take a position on whether any weapons or ammunition should be banned, but he said more of a focus should be on mental health issues.
“One of the things we’re likely to do after the holidays is bring in some mental health professionals who work at hospitals and clinics around the state and try to get to the heart of that question before we talk about the other elements,” Walker said. “Because whether it’s a firearm or some of these people have used explosives and other things like that, what do we do to keep people from getting to the point where they’re even willing and capable of committing an act like this?”
Walker said he may propose using GPS monitoring to track people who are under restraining orders.
The governor said he’ll consider adjusting state laws on whether the mentally ill can obtain firearms, but he’s not ready to jump to arming school staff.
“I don’t know that’s necessarily the right solution, either, nor do I know that would have protected (anyone in these cases),” Walker said. “Even if the principal had a permit to carry and was trained, he or she might have been at the other end of the school, and none of these are the perfect solution. But we do have to look at all the options out there and figure out a way to go forward and make it safer.”
He will consider some of these measures in the state budget set to be released in February, which may also include measures to limit University of Wisconsin tuition increases.
“As a parent, I can relate to other parents saying, ‘If you get past the initial sticker shock and say this is a good price to send my kid to school here,’ suddenly now tuition goes up 5-6 percent, and someone’s wages are barely going up 1 or 2,” Walker said. “It’s kind of hard each year to adjust for that. So part of what we’re looking at is trying to figure out: Is there a way to minimize those increases from year to year?”
Will the latest budget cause the same upheaval the state saw two years ago?
“I think there are things that Democrats and Republicans can work together on,” Walker said. “Now, will there be difference on the nuances of those priorities? Absolutely, and I don’t think there’s anybody that thinks somehow that would never happen. In terms of big issues that get off of our priorities, in terms of big things that drive protests or anything else like that, that’s not going to happen.”
State lawmakers will be sworn in on Jan. 7, and the legislative session should begin shortly after.