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Concealed Carry Expansion Passes State Senate Committee

Bill Would Allow Carrying Concealed Weapons Without Permit

Concealed carry
Ibro Palic (CC-BY-NC)

State lawmakers have advanced a bill that would make carrying a concealed weapon without a permit legal in Wisconsin.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, passed the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety on a vote of 3-2 Tuesday. Republicans on the committee voted to support the measure, while Democrats opposed it.

“I think it’s bad public policy,” said Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, of the bill. “We have a problem in this country with too much liberalization of firearms laws and this just adds to it.”

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Under the proposal, concealed carry licenses would be optional for those wishing to carry a hidden weapon, except in specific places, such as schools. Currently, individuals must undergo training and apply for a permit before being able to carry a concealed firearm.

“Wisconsin has long allowed the open carry of a firearm without the need for a government permit. The rules should be no different for those who carry concealed,” Craig said in a prepared statement. “Further, 12 other states, including Bernie Sanders’ own Vermont, allow their residents to concealed carry without a permit. Why should Wisconsinites enjoy fewer rights than those in other states?”

Craig has also argued the existing permit policy presents “administrative and cost barriers to self-protection.”

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett released a statement Tuesday expressing his disagreement with the bill.

“I recognize public safety is of paramount concern for us all. That’s why I’m asking the Legislature for a dedicated revenue stream to fund and maintain our police strength level,” Barrett said in the statement. “At the same time, citizens and the Legislature are expecting more and more of our police department.”

Citing city figures on increases in firearm recoveries from 2011, and in arrests for felons in possession of a firearm, Barrett argued public safety should be of the utmost concern.

“Easy access to deadly firearms and the crimes committed with those weapons is a major public safety concern for citizens and police officers and a strain on city resources,” he said.

Several school groups and health care organizations have registered their opposition to the bill. The National Rifle Association, Wisconsin Firearms Coalition, and other similar interest groups support it.

The bill has yet to receive a public hearing in the state Assembly.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 9:46 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 to include comments from Tom Barrett.