Area law enforcement officials are keeping close tabs on the developments in Madison regarding the concealed weapons legislation that, if enacted, would allow individuals to carry firearms without a permit or any training.
The legislation, which was approved by the state Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, has provoked a variety of reactions throughout Milwaukee and Waukesha counties from top brass. Some favor the legislation on a constitutional basis, while others oppose it on the grounds of safety.
Wauwatosa Police Chief Barry Weber opposes letting Wisconsinites carry concealed weapons.
“My opinion is that as our society got so bad that the only way that we are going to feel safe is that everyone has got to have guns to deter more crime," he said. "I think that is a travesty and we all bear the blame for that."
Lenient gun laws along with the sheer amount of guns available have exasperated the issue, Weber said. “Now the only way we feel safe is for everyone has one,” he added.
Also opposing the measure is Fox Point Police Chief Tom Czaja.
"We don’t need any more guns out on the street right now," he said. "We have enough guns on the street. If people are carrying a concealed weapon, an argument could ensue where a person might take that out. In the heat of an argument, somebody may pull that out."
Waukesha sheriff backs bill as is
On the other end of the spectrum is Waukesha County Sheriff Daniel Trawicki, who believes the legislation helps uphold the constitutional right to bear arms.
“I am definitely in favor of conceal carry,” Trawicki said. “I think it is ridiculous that we can’t trust law-abiding citizens to carry guns.”
Also supporting the concealed weapons bill is Bayside Police Chief Bruce Resnick.
"Personally, I think it’s overblown and I don’t think it’s a big issue," he said. "Bad people that want to carry guns, carry guns. Crooks carry guns, I mean that’s what they do, and they don’t have a permit to do it, and they will never get a permit to do it."
Should training, permits be required?
Other versions of proposed legislation during the last decade have included requirements for firearm safety training, background checks and license or permits. The bill approved by the Senate committee is considered a “constitutional” carry law because it does not contain any of those provisions.
Trawicki opposes a training requirement, but believes individuals should educate
themselves on how to be responsible firearm owners.
Shorewood Police Chief David Banaszynski said he believes training and a permitting system should be a part of any concealed weapons law. He opposes the bill that's making its way through the Senate right now.
“I just hope there is some common sense put into it,” he said. “The education part and training part is so crucial.”
Banaszynski said the training should revolve around when it is time to actually use your weapon. “If someone steals you bike, you don’t want to shoot at them as they ride away,” he said.
Weber, the Wauwatosa chief, also would like to see a training requirement, however, he fears such a requirement could put the burden on local law enforcement agencies.
“Who’s going to do the training?” he asked. “They’ll probably say local sheriffs and law enforcement. We’re not equipped to do that with our own funding problems.”
Some have suggested that if a permit is required, it should carry a fee that would fund a system to notify police of who has a permit and any other administrative costs associated with the law.
Trawicki believes a permitting system would be of little value for law enforcement because police officers are trained to assume that anyone they apprehend is armed.
“If we run a license plate and it tells us that they have a concealed-carry permit, that does not mean that they are carrying,” he said. “We are talking about law-abiding citizens. They are not our problem. The people that are our problem shouldn’t be carrying guns and we don’t know when they are carrying guns.”
Clarke testifies in favor of bill
Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, in remarks to the Senate committee earlier this month, applauded the measure.
“I am willing to consider any initiative that empowers our citizens to become stewards of their own safety and private affairs,” he told the committee on May 12.
Wisconsin and Illinois are the only two states that do not have a conceal-carry law on the books. Weber acknowledged that states with such laws have not seen a spike in crime after they were put into place.
“But every year, nationwide, we still see those incidences of a shooting in a school or a workplace,” he said. “How many more tragedies do we have to see to realize what we are doing isn’t working?”
“What is the cost of one life?” he asked.
The Milwaukee County Board on Thursday adopted a resolution that opposes the legislation.
“I’m pleased that the County Board has approved this resolution. I hope the Legislature hears our voices and stops this bill in its tracks,” said Supervisor Eyon Biddle, who authored the bill. “Allowing people to carry a concealed weapon is bad enough, it’s even worse that they’re considering a bill that doesn’t even require a permit or training,”
Biddle is particularly concerned with concealed weapons being allowed on board Milwaukee County Transit System buses, in the main terminal of General Mitchell International Airport, and in public areas such as parks, zoos
Biddle said if the bill becomes law, Milwaukee County would be forced to install additional metal detectors at all public entrances, at a cost of $8,000 each, as well as provide storage lockers.
“Considering the hundreds of properties owned by the county, containing thousands of public entrances, the cost to taxpayers could reach millions of
dollars,” he said in a statement.
Patch Editors Sarah Worthman and Adam McCoy contributed to this story.