Milwaukee Lawmaker Introduces Bill Requiring Background Checks For More Gun Sales

Aug 15, 2019

The battle over stronger gun laws has resumed in Wisconsin. A Milwaukee state senator and other Democratic legislators have introduced a bill requiring background checks for more gun sales. But it's unclear if the Republican-controlled Legislature will allow the bill to move.   

Recent mass shootings in Texas, Ohio, and other states have again prompted calls for tighter controls on gun purchases.

READ: Americans Largely Support Gun Restrictions To 'Do Something' About Gun Violence

A bill introduced in Madison Thursday would close Wisconsin's so-called background check loophole that allows people to buy a firearm from an unlicensed seller. The Wisconsin Department of Justice would do a background check for all gun purchases, except for sales of federally-classified antique guns, or transfers and gifts between family members. 

State Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, is a co-author of the bill. She says it would help the city by making it tougher for convicted felons to buy guns.

"If you are a convicted felon, you're not going to go to Walmart or someplace they're going to do a background check to purchase a weapon. You're more likely going to someplace like armslist.com because there are no background checks required," Johnson says.

READ: Could Reframing Gun Violence As A Public Health Crisis Help Solve The Problem?

She says she's attended too many funerals of gun victims. She says she also recently spent some time in a Milwaukee County court that focuses on gun crimes.

"The thing that amazed me most was not the number of individuals that came through gun court. But the number of individuals who had already been charged previously with felon in possession of a gun," Johnson says.

She says there's overwhelming public support for background checks for more gun sales. But it's up to the Republicans who run the state legislature to even allow a hearing on her bill, she says.

WUWM contacted the offices of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald for an interview. Fitzgerald's office referred us to Wisconsin Eye video of the Dodge County senator speaking to reporters earlier this week about universal background checks.

"Universal — the trouble there's going to be, there's always a constituency who vote Republican, and that means registering your firearm. And they're going to be opposed to it," Fitzgerald said in the video. 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers says he's considering calling a special Legislative session on gun legislation.  But that's usually only done when there seems a clear majority of lawmakers willing to vote yes on a bill.