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Madison Area Lawmakers Want To Keep Gun Ban On Buses

Democratic Legislators Propose Bill In Wake Of Supreme Court Ruling Allowing Guns On Public Transit

Shamane Mills/WPR

Last week Wisconsin’s Supreme Court struck down a Madison rule prohibiting guns on buses. Now, a group of five area lawmakers are pushing back. At a press conference Thursday, they introduced a bill that would give local governments the authority to decide whether or not to allow weapons on transit systems.

Madison already bans guns in city-owned buildings. State Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, said the city should also have the authority to prevent people from bringing guns on buses.

“Buses are confined spaces; they are not good safe places to have weapons,” said Subeck. “And certainly we believe that it should be up to our local governments to make that decision.”

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Madison Metro Transit general manager Chuck Kamp said they have high ridership — per capita, the 17th highest in the United States — and they have long banned guns on buses. Kamp supports the proposed legislation.

“We are concerned that loaded weapons on a crowded bus is not the safe way to go,” Kamp said. “We are working with the (city) attorney’s office, obviously to comply with the Supreme Court decision but we are very pleased to hear that there are others stepping forward and recognizing that our longstanding policy was a common sense policy.”

Officials with Madison Metropolitan School District, which contracts with the transit system to provide student transportation, have expressed concerns about the court ruling allowing guns on buses and may consider dropping the partnership.

State lawmakers passed a concealed carry law in 2011 that made it legal to carry guns in most public places but did allow exceptions. Madison Mayor Paul Soglin maintains that failing to include buses in the law was a mistake.

“If we go back to the original law and we look at its purpose, we look at its intent, it clearly was an oversight in the enumeration of the controls and powers that we as municipalities might have in regards to areas that we control,” Soglin said.

But Nik Clark, director of Wisconsin Carry, which challenged the ban in court, took issue with Soglin’s logic.

“If the Legislature wanted to ban carry on buses, they would have written it into the law a few years ago when it was written and passed with bipartisan support,” Clark told WPR in a written statement, describing the Democratic bill as “red meat for the anti-gun crowd in Madison,” whom he derided as, “a vocal, selfish, anti-freedom minority.”

Soglin said one option (aside from the proposed law change) would be a requirement that passengers with guns notify the bus driver. But the mayor expressed doubts that disclosure would be allowed under the court decision.

“This bill is the only safe and prudent way of resolving the problem, the dilemma of the proliferation of guns,” Soglin said.

Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he will review the proposal but does not support legislation allowing cities to undermine Wisconsin’s second amendment protections.

Along with Subeck, the bill’s sponsors are Democratic Reps. Terese Berceau, Melissa Sargent and Chris Taylor of Madison, and Jimmy Anderson of Fitchburg.