State seeks to remove gun limits

Jessica Zemlicka

A bill introduced in the Wisconsin Legislature states individuals with concealed-carry permits will be allowed to carry their firearms in university buildings and classrooms. This law would apply to technical colleges and University of Wisconsin campuses.

According to a Wisconsin State Journal article on Monday, the proposal was authored by Republican State Rep. Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum and Devin LeMahieu of Oostburg.

The UW System released a statement on Monday addressing its reaction to the bill.

“We take the safety of our campus communities very seriously and know that our legislative partners do as well,” the release stated. “We have significant concerns and questions with this proposal and cannot currently support it.”

Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said he holds the same position as the UW System and values the safety of the UW Oshkosh campus.

“We believe the safety of our students, faculty and staff are our top priority and have policy and protocol in place to address that,” Leavitt said. “We, as a campus community, need to feel safe in our classrooms, offices, residence halls, labs, dining halls and facilities.”

UWO Interim Chief of Police Chris Tarmann, said the introduction of the bill and the possibility of it becoming law would not affect their policies.

“We currently take the safety of our campus community very seriously so if this bill were to pass, it wouldn’t change a lot of the current operational guidelines that we have in place already,” Tarmann said.

The bill is co-sponsored and supported by Wisconsin’s 18th District Republican Sen. Rick Gudex who said the bill does not force people to carry their weapons on campus or make the process easy to earn a conceal-carry permit.

“The proposal empowers proven responsible individuals the ability to use a firearm for self-protection if they choose,” Gudex said.

On the Democrat side, State Rep. Gordon Hintz of Oshkosh said the bill does nothing to address the issue of gun violence.

“As a human being living in the real world, I think it is incredibly short-sighted and dangerous,” Hintz said.

Hintz also said this bill does nothing to help heal the harm done by previous mass school shootings.

“This legislation seems to insinuate that those who have been murdered by gun violence would somehow be alive today if they had need carrying a firearm themselves, which I frankly find offensive,” Hintz said.

Gudex said the bill will increase the number of guns in the hands of people proven responsible enough to own a firearm and send a message to those thinking of planning a mass shooting.

“A benefit this bill will provide is that our campuses will have a deterrent in place that will send a clear message to mentally unstable individuals who seek to commit violent atrocities,” Gudex said.

Gudex also said the bill only addresses half of the Republicans’ public safety solution regarding gun violence.

“The downfall is that [the bill] does not take guns out of the hands of bad people,” Gudex said.

Hintz said the issues surrounding gun violence are more complicated than allowing those with a permit to carry their weapons into school buildings.

“The false argument that arming more people in more settings will reduce violence of any kind is absurd,” Hintz said. “Lawmakers should be taking an evidence-based public health approach to gun violence, like we do to reduce deaths from other potentially dangerous things around us.”

The bill also does not address the other types of violent crimes that occur on college campuses, according to Gudex.

“While instilling policies that bring down gun violence is a good thing, we need to keep the entire umbrella of violent crime in our scope as well because violent crimes are committed by other means on our campuses,” Gudex said.

Hintz said the bill will not allow campus law enforcement to provide a safe and secure environment.

“This bill is not an attempt to improve the safety of college campuses,” Hintz said. “Large numbers of people, binge-drinking and guns do not sound like a safe mix. And the idea of individuals being able to bring guns into places like Titan Stadium during a crowded football game or our residence halls is extremely troubling to me.”

In reaction to the introduction of the bill, three Madison Democrats Rep. Chris Taylor, Rep. Melissa Sargent and Rep. Terese Berceau proposed the “college campus dangerous weapon ban,” according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on Wednesday.

The article also stated this bill would override the 2011 law allowing permit holders to carry guns on any campus property.

“[The bill] would make carrying a dangerous weapon on campus a Class I felony,” the article stated.

UWO student Gary Flick said he believes everyone has the right to own a firearm.

“I don’t think we’ll ever disarm criminals, and police aren’t [always around to protect citizens],” Flick said.

Flick said knowing someone has a gun in a campus building would put him on guard.

“It would definitely alarm me if I saw one, and [it] would make me feel uncomfortable knowing the guy or gal next to me had a weapon,” Flick said.

Flick said he does not feel unsafe on campus, but doesn’t think the bill passing would make him feel safer day-to-day.

“If the worst were to happen, and there was a shooting to happen while I was on campus, I do think I would feel a bit safer knowing that the crazy person wasn’t the only one around with a gun,” Flick said.

Flick said he is scared to choose a side on whether the bill is right or wrong.

“There are so many pros and cons, and it’s literally a matter of life and death,” Flick said.