When Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers called lawmakers into a special session to vote on gun control bills like a “red flag” law and a universal background bill, Republican legislators said the GOP-controlled chambers would simply gavel in the session as required by law, but would adjourn without taking any votes on the gun control measures. That’s exactly what happened in Madison Thursday afternoon, despite protests by anti-gun activists in the legislative galleries.
Democrats tried their best to goad Republicans into taking the votes, pointing to Virginia and this week’s election results, warning Republicans that if they didn’t pass the bills today, they’d face electoral consequences next year.
Gov. Tony Evers has said they are ignoring the will of the people and will face blowback from voters at the next election. He cited polls showing broad support for both ideas.
“If you refuse the people of this state a vote on these proposals, you are once again denying the will of the people, circumventing the democratic process, and refusing to do your jobs as elected officials,” Evers wrote in a letter to Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald on Thursday morning before the session began.
Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said Republicans should vote or risk losing power as the GOP did in an election this week in Virginia, where gun violence was a major campaign issue.
“Failing to act on basic public safety measures is accepting there is nothing we can do to make our communities safer,” Hintz said. “We cannot sit back and do nothing. We have a responsibility to act. … The issue’s not going away. We shouldn’t have to wait for the next mass shooting to get more attention on it.”
Gun control advocates held rallies in support of the gun bills before the session began, but unlike the scene outside Virginia’s capitol during its special session on gun control this summer where thousands of individuals on both sides of the issue came out to advocate, anti-gun advocates in Wisconsin could only muster a few dozen supporters today.
Several dozen people are rallying on the steps of the state Capitol in Madison in hopes of persuading Republican lawmakers to vote on two bills restricting firearm ownership.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called a special legislation session on the bills for Thursday afternoon. The measures would mandate universal background checks and allow family members or police to ask judges to temporarily seize guns from people who pose a threat. Republicans who control the Legislature say they won’t even debate the bills.
About 75 people rallied outside the Capitol ahead of the session in sub-freezing temperatures. They held signs that read “#allowthevote” and “Protect Kids Not NRA,” a reference to the National Rifle Association.
Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul warmed up the crowd, saying it’s time for Republicans to act and people have had enough of “political cowardice.”
If you really think that gun control is a winning issue, as Kaul clearly does, then it’s not an act of “cowardice” to choose the unpopular position. And it’s not as if Republicans are simply ignoring the issue. As a matter of fact, GOP lawmakers attempted to override the governor’s veto of several measures, including funding for a mental health center on Thursday, but unfortunately couldn’t get any Democrats to cross over and join them. Instead of providing actual help to individuals in crisis, Democrats in Wisconsin’s statehouse seem content to take any legally owned guns away and leave the crisis unchecked.