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Amid push to prevent summertime violence, Wisconsin Democrats reintroduce gun safety bills

Bills would exempt gun locks from sales tax, require universal background checks, allow people to petition courts for extreme risk protection orders

A gun shop owner demonstrates how a gun lock works.
In this photo taken Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, gun shop owner Tiffany Teasdale demonstrates how a gun lock works on a handgun in Lynnwood, Wash. Elaine Thompson/AP Photo

Amid a push to prevent a summer-time spike in violence, Wisconsin Democrats are reintroducing a package of gun safety bills.

One proposal unveiled Monday would require background checks for almost all gun sales, by requiring them to go through federally-licensed dealers. Another bill would allow law enforcement or a member of someone’s family or household to petition courts for an extreme risk protection order that would temporarily take guns away from someone deemed to be an immediate risk to themselves or others.

Similar proposals have been introduced in past sessions, but failed to advance to public hearings in Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled Legislature. The revived bills are currently being circulated for co-sponsors.

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State Rep. Sheila Stubbs, D-Madison, said she’s hopeful the tide will change because of broad support for the measures among Wisconsinites.

“This common-sense legislation will prevent shootings before they occur, while equally respecting the rights of those who are responsible gun owners,” said Stubbs, who was joined by Democratic Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul at a news conference supporting the measures on Monday.

Last year, a Marquette Law School poll found 79 percent of the registered Wisconsin voters polled supported mandatory background checks for gun sales, including those done through private dealers or at gun shows. The bill reintroduced on Monday includes exemptions to the background check requirement if the gun is transferred to a law enforcement agency, if it’s an antique, or if it’s given to a family member as a gift or part of an inheritance.

That same Marquette poll found 81 percent of those polled supported so-called red flag laws, which allow police to confiscate guns from people found by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others.

Also on Monday, the Democratic coalition once again proposed legislation that would exempt gun safes, trigger locks and barrel locks from the state’s sales tax. Bill sponsor and state Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, told reporters that safe gun storage is a deeply personal issue.

When Subeck was in middle school, she knew a girl who was shot and killed accidentally while a group of kids was playing with an antique gun.

“Two families were ripped apart,” Subeck said. “I will never forget that because it was one of the most powerful and most foundational moments of my teenage years. It was the first time that I ever had really thought about kids dying.”

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers included the measures as part of his budget proposal for the next two fiscal years, but Republican lawmakers removed them.