WI GOP May Go Big on Guns In ’17

A state lawmaker says Republicans may go big and go bold on 2nd Amendment issues in the next legislative session. Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, was a driving force being a “campus carry” bill that stalled last session. Currently concealed carry license holders can carry on campus grounds but cannot take guns into university buildings. Kremer believes an increase in campus attacks, such as one at Ohio State University recently, that appear to be carried out by self-radicalized attackers brings a sense of urgency to the issue and he would expect it to have renewed momentum after the session begins in January. Kremer says if the building ban remains law, those over 21 on college campuses are being deprived their right to self-protect with guns. And Kremer says lone-wolf attacks aren’t his primary concern.

“So right now you can carry on the grounds at school (college campuses) but not at the building. So when you get to the door, what do you do with it? In reality you can’t carry on campus grounds. The real concern is kids walking to and from their dorms and apartment building late at night or early in the morning and the criminal element knows that they are not armed. And that’s been an issue around the country and other campuses.”

Yet active shooters and other terrorism related attackers are a growing concern on campus. After a butcher knife-wielding attacker struck the OSU campus, college police departments around Wisconsin reminded students and staff on campus how to react to an active shooter or other attacker. It advises fleeing and hiding from an attacker and then, as a last resort, taking action:

“ As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to incapacitate the active shooter. Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.”

Even though students could be armed while walking on campus, the advice mentions nothing of using a gun against an active shooter or other attacker.

Other lawmakers I spoke with said Assembly Speaker Robin Vos effectively prevented the bill from advancing last session, but Kremer wouldn’t directly blame Vos for the bill’s stalling out. I asked a Vos spokesperson if the Speaker would see a renewed sense of urgency to pass the bill this session. She replied with a prepared statement:

“Several of our members have expressed an interest in the issue. The session hasn’t started so there hasn’t been an opportunity to have a discussion on it as a caucus.”

In fact, the discussion that takes place on 2nd Amendment rights this session may be far more robust than a single issue. Kremer tells Media Trackers that there may be an attempt by a group of lawmakers to make a dramatic move on gun issues: campus carry, K-12 carry and they are considering pushing a constitutional carry law.

K-12 is a reference to a bill that would allow concealed carry license holders to carry weapons on public and private K-12 schools. Kremer and others have said that under current “gun-free school zone laws” law abiding parents and other caretakers inadvertently break the law when they drop off or pick up children at school. Kremer said last month he intended to introduce that bill this session. Constitutional carry has been discussed in the past but there has been no serious effort to this point to move in that direction in Wisconsin.

Constitutional carry allows for the legal carrying of a handgun, either openly or concealed, without requiring any government permit or license. It’s also known as “Freedom to Carry.” According to gunlaws.com 11 states have constitutional carry with eight of approving it within the last ten years.

Given the difficulty in moving college campus carry and K-12 carry bills last session constitutional carry might appear to be an overreach. But Kremer says there is a group of lawmakers with a “if not now when” mentality about gun rights issues because of the strong Republican majorities in both houses going into the next session. Gunlaws.com lists Wisconsin as one of 22 states that have either introduced or are planning to introduce constitutional carry in their legislatures.

It’s possible that constitutional carry will be used as a bargaining chip to get the other two school related bills passed. Either way it appears that gun rights advocates in the Wisconsin legislature have ambitious plans for the next session. Leadership reception to their proposals will go a long way to determining how successful those plans are.