Bill to Make Wisconsin Campuses 'Gun-Free Zones' Puts Feelings Over Facts

AP Photo/Martha Irvine

A pair of Democratic lawmakers in the Badger State have introduced a bill to make all college campuses in the state "gun-free zones", but they know their legislation isn't going anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate. What's an anti-gunner to do in a situation like that? Figure out a way to collaborate with Republicans on something both sides could agree on? Or write an op-ed drenched in emotion and decidedly short on facts in order to portray your colleagues as heartless cowards who love guns more than kids? 

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Last month, an op-ed was published in more than 50 student newspapers across the country, signed by more than 150 student leaders. It opened with a heartbreaking statement: 

“Students are taught to love a country that values guns over our lives.”

It is hard to hear, but it’s also hard to argue with the facts. Gun violence is now the No. 1 killer of children and young adults in the United States. Decades of rolling back gun safety laws while allowing easy access to guns is taking a deadly toll. 

As we've discussed before (and as even the Washington Post has acknowledged, that claim is only true if you don't count deaths of children under the age of 1 and if you include deaths of 18 and 19-year-olds, who are considered adults in the vast majority of states. Rep. Deb Andraca and Sen. Kelda Roys are playing fast and loose with the facts to try to drum up support for their proposed "gun-free zone", and they know the best way to do that is to scare voters into demanding more restrictions. 

Most recently, we introduced Senate Bill 982, which would prohibit a person from possessing a firearm in a building or on the grounds of a publicly or privately owned college or university, mirroring other gun-free school zones. Students, faculty, and staff in higher education should be able to teach and learn with the peace of mind that firearms are not welcome on campus. This is one of over a dozen proposals that could help reduce gun deaths, but it won’t see the light of day in the Republican-controlled legislature. 

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Why should it? Did the fact that Michigan State was a "gun-free zone" prevent the murder of three students last year? Nope. Virginia Tech was also "gun-free" when a madman murdered 32 people on campus in 2007. These "gun-free zones" are gun-free in name only. Signage won't stop a committed killer from bringing a firearm onto campus and taking as many lives as they can before they're stopped. In fact, if a sign is all it takes for someone to feel protected, I'd say they haven't thought too deeply about the issue at all. 

But if Andraca and Roys believe that those on college campuses should have the peace of mind that firearms "aren't welcome on campus," then I have good news for the lawmakers: right now there's not a single public or private college or university in Wisconsin that actually allows concealed carry in campus buildings 

Under Wisconsin's concealed carry law adopted in 2011, campus carry wasn't banned by state statute, but colleges and universities still have the leeway to prohibit lawful carry in campus facilities, if not on the campus grounds. The Wisconsin Democrats should be well aware of that fact, but it appears they wanted to keep their readers in the dark since they never bothered to mention it in their op-ed. 

Andraca and Roys also never mentioned any crimes that have been committed by concealed carry holders in the portions of campuses that are open to lawful carry... probably because they couldn't find any. Their bill is a solution in search of a problem, with the sponsors pointing their fingers at concealed carry holders for crimes that have never taken place. 

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If anything, the Republican majorities in the statehouse should be working to expand campus carry to include buildings and facilities, at least those that are only "sensitive" in theory but have no additional security measures in place to prevent crimes from occurring. If Roys and Andraca are genuinely concerned about the safety of students, faculty, and staff, how about ensuring they have the ability to fight back if a mass murderer picks their campus as a target instead of forcing them to depend on signage for their safety? 


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