State police call for tougher checks on gun buyers


Police in Wisconsin are calling for expanded background checks on gun buyers. Firearms were the number one cause of fatalities for on-duty officers nationwide last year, surpassing motor vehicle accidents for the first time in 14 years.

Private gun sales over the internet or in person account for a substantial amount of firearm transactions. It’s believed 40 percent of these legal sales are unregulated; no background check is done because a federally licensed gun dealer isn’t involved. Berlin Police Chief Dennis Plantz says that makes it dangerous for officers and the public, who may encounter a felon, mentally ill person or domestic abuser prevented by law from owning a gun. Plantz says Congress needs to expand background checks to private sales. “To our way of thinking this is illogical and dangerous. Why should we be satisfied with a law that impacts just over half of the problem? We don’t require the wearing of seatbelts just Monday through Thursday. We don’t let 40 percent of air passengers bypass security.”

Plantz heads the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association; the group already met privately with two of the four Republican U.S. Senate candidates: Tommy Thompson and Eric Hovde; a meeting with Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin may happen later. UW-Madison Police Chief Sue Riseling says this is a pressing issue that politicians should act on. “I do think Wisconsin has a long tradition and rich history of our public officials taking public safety seriously.”

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In addition to expanding background checks, the law enforcement group also wants to improve the quality of those background checks. A 2011 report on the national database of disqualified purchasers showed some states had submitted few—if any—mental health records.