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Wisconsin Lawmakers Consider Ousting 48-Hour Waiting Period on Handgun Purchases

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Another debate over guns has surfaced at the State Capitol.

This time, the prompt is a bill that would eliminate Wisconsin’s 48-hour waiting period for purchasing a handgun. A Senate committee will hold a public hearing on the measure Wednesday, with a vote scheduled for Thursday. Gov. Scott Walker has indicated he’ll sign the measure if it reaches his desk.

Wisconsin has imposed a waiting period on gun purchases, for 40 years. Buyers have to wait 48 hours after submitting a background form, until they can pick up the gun. During that time, the state runs a check on the person to make sure they’re eligible.

Gov. Walker recently told the National Rifle Association that science has eliminated the need for a waiting period.

“With new technology, it’s easy to make sure the bad guys don’t get firearms and the good guys do and I think that’s one of the issues where we’ve been the leader when it comes to freedom over the past four years,” Walker says.

Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard agrees with the governor that Wisconsin’s law is antiquated. He says it takes the state Department of Justice only an hour these days, to conduct background checks. Wanggaard testified at a hearing, that the wait can be fatal for targets of domestic violence.

“Recently this was proven by a vicious case in my district where a husband brutally murdered his wife with a hatchet at a local motel. The day prior to the murder, the wife attempted to purchase a handgun from a gun dealer in Caledonia after her husband had made threats to her safety. However, because of the waiting period she was unable to take possession of the handgun in time to potentially save her life,” Wanggaard says.

The Racine senator co-sponsored the bill that a Senate committee will accept testimony on today and vote on Thursday. One legislator who plans to speak against the plan is Democratic Assemblyman Mandela Barnes of Milwaukee. He says the 48-hour wait was originally designed to provide a “cooling off period.”

“When do you just wake up and say I need a gun right now? That happens when you’re in some sort of situation, your judgment is clouded because of whatever anger that may be going through your mind and people often make the wrong decisions in the heat of the moment,” Barnes says.

Barnes says he’s not surprised another gun issue is before the Legislature. Neither is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. He says quick passage would put another feather in Gov. Walker’s conservative cap, as he explores a bid for the White House.

“Sadly, I think this legislation is built around one thing and that is the national NRA convention next month in Nashville, where Gov. Walker is going to speak and where presumably he is going to brag about how the state of Wisconsin has now removed the 48-hour waiting period,” Barrett says.

According to Barrett, the bill would have devastating effects in Milwaukee if passed. He says guns could reach the streets more rapidly. Since Republicans swept into office in 2011, Wisconsin has legalized concealed carry and the Castle Doctrine, which protects homeowners who shoot intruders.

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