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Milwaukee leaders decry 'tidal wave' of gun violence, including wounding of 5 outside Rufus King High School

news conference
Chuck Quirmbach
Left to right: Arnitta Holliman, director of Milwaukee's Office of Violence Prevention, speaks at a Wednesday news conference, as Milwaukee School Board President Bob Peterson, MPS Superintendent Keith Posley, Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman and acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson listen.

In two developments on the issue of gun violence, acting Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson said the city is fighting "a tidal wave," and Democratic state lawmakers have announced a plan to try to slow down the purchase of handguns.

Here are the details:

Milwaukee police briefed the news media Wednesday about five women being wounded by gunfire outside Rufus King High School Tuesday evening. Police said the shootings occurred as a crowd gathered around a fight between two girls after a girls' high school basketball game. The fight, police said, stemmed from a social media dispute. The police department said during the altercation, a man fired a gun multiple times, injuring the five.

Johnson said he'd have preferred to spend the day talking about economic development in Milwaukee. "But here we are again, talking about this tidal wave of gun violence that has just been overwhelming our city," he said.

Rufus King High School in Milwaukee
Chuck Quirmbach
Rufus King High School in Milwaukee

Milwaukee Police Chief Jeffrey Norman said details of the Rufus King shootings are still being investigated, but he's upset that it appears few, if any, of the onlookers tried to break up the fight outside the school peacefully and that instead, an adult started firing a gun.

"Granted, we have to understand you want to be safe. We don't want you getting into the fray and putting yourself into harm. But having adults respond to a situation like this and use that level of violence is unacceptable! Unacceptable on all levels! And I have this message for adults who don't understand what that means: Accountability is real! This is not going to be tolerated in this city! Absolutely not!" Norman emphasized.

Arnitta Holliman directs the Milwaukee Office of Violence Prevention. She also called on adults to defuse tension. "At this point, either you help us in this fight to prevent and interrupt violence, or you are a bystander while blood is shed," Holliman said.

As of Wednesday evening, the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner reported 27 homicides in the county this year, almost all in the city of Milwaukee.

Dr. James Nosal speaks at a State Capitol news conference, as Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) looks on.
Screenshot from Wisconsin Eye
Dr. James Nosal speaks at a state Capitol news conference, as Rep. Shelia Stubbs (D-Madison) looks on.

Other communities in the state are also concerned about gun violence. Two Madison legislators want to bring back Wisconsin's 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases. Dr. James Nosal, of Sun Prairie, said his daughter Caroline was killed in 2016 by a former co-worker who was fired one day, bought a gun and shot Caroline the next.

"I'm not going to stand here and tell you that a 48-hour waiting period would have saved my daughter's life. But it might have given a troubled young man time to get over his anger," he said.

Just a year prior, Republican Gov. Scott Walker helped get rid of the waiting period, claiming a national instant background check system made the waiting requirement obsolete.

GOP leaders of the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly did not respond Wednesday to WUWM's request for comment.

Editor’s note: A portion of the audio is from WisconsinEye.

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