Democrats unify to push gun sale background checks

By: - August 15, 2019 9:54 am

(Alex Wong | Getty Images)

Democrats showed what a difference it makes in being able to magnify their voices by having statewide-elected officials that come together behind an issue that is popular with the majority of the public. Today Attorney General Josh Kaul, Gov. Tony Evers, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and Sen. LaTonya Johnson (D-Milwaukee) unveiled a bill to close the background check loophole on gun sales.

Read the bill here

Current law only requires that licensed gun dealers conduct background checks to sell a firearm. This allows others to sell to people who want to circumvent a sale. The bill requires background checks under the Wisconsin Department of Justice for all purchases with few exceptions, including gifts from family members.

A Marquette Law School Poll conducted in March 2018 found that 81% of Wisconsinites support closing the loophole by requiring background checks on private gun sales and sales at gun shows. Households that own a gun supported background checks by just a slightly lower margin, but still overwhelming at 78% support for universal background checks. Support went up to 86% in households without a gun.

Below are the statements the officials released Thursday morning:

Kaul: “Background checks are conducted for the vast majority of firearm purchases in Wisconsin. But because we don’t have universal background checks, people who are a danger to others—including people who have been convicted of a dangerous felony or are subject to a domestic violence restraining order—currently can buy a firearm without going through a background check. This legislation would change that—and make Wisconsin safer.”

Evers: “We have to stop ignoring the problem of gun violence in our state and our country, and it’s time for our elected officials to find the courage to do what is right. Addressing gun violence doesn’t have to be a false choice between the 2nd Amendment and keeping our kids and our communities safe—we can walk and chew gum at the same time, and a majority of Wisconsinites agree that no matter what kind of firearm is being purchased or where it’s being purchased from, the process should be the same.”

Barnes: “Gun violence is an issue that’s personal for me as a citizen and as an elected official. Growing up, I lost classmates and friends to gun violence, while experiencing the pain and grief it brings to entire neighborhoods.  During my time as a state legislator, I fought for common-sense gun laws that would keep Wisconsin safe. Now, as lieutenant governor, I support this legislation that will require background checks for those purchasing or transferring firearms. Only then will we have communities where every woman, man and child have a chance to thrive.”

Johnson: “As elected officials, those we serve want to know that we are prioritizing the safety of their families. No parent should be afraid for their child’s life when they are walking down the street or in school, yet that is exactly what is happening. 90% of Americans support background checks for all gun sales. This bill is a common-sense start to a needed conversation about how we can protect our children and make our communities safer.”

Sargent: “Everyone deserves to live in a safe community and without the fear of gun violence. Yet, here in Wisconsin, many firearm sales continue to be conducted without necessary background checks due to this egregious loophole in our laws. Closing this loophole ensures that all firearm sales are vetted and properly checked, working to keep our kids, our communities, and our state safe. Continued inaction is complicity. We must listen to the voices of the people of Wisconsin and take tangible steps to reduce gun violence by closing the background check loophole in our state.” 


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Melanie Conklin
Melanie Conklin

Melanie Conklin was the Wisconsin Examiner's founding Deputy Editor, serving from its launch July 1, 2019, until Feb. 1, 2022. She is proud to be a native of the state of Wisconsin, which gave humankind the typewriter, progressivism and deep-fried cheese curds. Her several decades in journalism include political beats and columns at Isthmus newspaper, the Wisconsin State Journal and other publications. When not an ink-stained wretch, she served time inside state, local and federal government in communications before returning to journalism at the Examiner. It’s what she’s loved ever since getting her master’s degree in journalism from the UW-Madison. Her family includes one husband, two kids, four dogs and five (or more) chinchillas.