, , , ,

Lawmakers Clash Over Proposal To Increase Gun Crime Penalties

Assembly Democrats Argue Against Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

guns on wall at a store
In this photo taken March 15, 2017, AR-15 style rifles made by Battle Rifle Co., a gunmaker in Webster, Texas, are on display in its retail shop. Lisa Marie Pane/AP Photo

State lawmakers clashed Thursday over a bill to toughen penalties on gun crimes in Wisconsin.

The plan would target people who already have criminal records and are found guilty of gun crimes.

Under the proposal, someone who commits a gun crime and has at least three misdemeanors or a felony on their criminal record would be sentenced to at least four years in prison.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Every Democrat on the Assembly’s criminal justice committee voted against the bill.

Rep. Evan Goyke, D-Milwaukee, argued mandatory minimum sentences don’t discourage criminal behavior and contribute to overcrowding in prisons.

“As we review our criminal justice systems and a lot of decisions that we made under the guise of ‘tough on crime’ in the 1990s and early 2000s, we’re reviewing that we’ve stacked the prisons full of people and it hasn’t really worked the way we thought it would,” Goyke said.

He argued economic development would be a better way to discourage gun crime in urban areas of the state.

“We will not disrupt the status quo in my community in Milwaukee until we radically change the economy of the north side of the city of Milwaukee,” he said. “None of the provisions of this bill do anything to change the lives of generational poverty in the block that I live on.”

All Republicans on the committee voted in favor of the bill, which has the backing of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and the Badger State Sheriffs’ Association. It passed committee on a 6-4 vote.

The bill also sets tougher penalties for buying a gun for someone legally barred from owning one — a practice commonly known as “straw buying.”

Under the bill, someone who engages in straw buying could be fined up to $25,000 and imprisoned for up to 10 years.

The bill also requires people to fill out a form when they buy a gun, certifying they’re not buying it for someone else.

The proposal passed a state Senate committee last month. It is now eligible to go before the full Assembly and Senate.