Lawmakers at Odds Over Solutions to Milwaukee Violence

AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File

The city of Milwaukee isn't exactly the place people think of when they think about dangerousness. That's reserved for cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, etc.


In fact, when I think of Milwaukee, I think of beer. 

My one trip there involved smelling beer from about the time I hit the city limits and never really getting any better.

However, with its proximity to Chicago, I shouldn't be surprised that officials there are having an issue with violent crime. I mean, back when I was at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, a single train ran from Chicago to Milwaukee and stopped right outside the base gate. If we could hop on and ride either way, there's no reason to believe bad guys couldn't do the same thing, importing everything from illegal guns and drugs to violent attitudes.

And officials from the area seem to have differing opinions on how to deal with it.

Surging gun violence in Milwaukee this summer has prompted city leaders to renew calls for state lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws, but Republicans who control the Legislature say that’s unlikely to happen.

In previous legislative sessions, Democratic lawmakers have repeatedly proposed the kind of solutions Milwaukee’s mayor and police chief are pushing for. Republicans have blocked those bills, saying gun violence in Milwaukee isn’t the result of lax laws but rather lax leaders who are too soft on crime.

“Milwaukee doesn’t have a gun problem; it’s got a criminal problem. And sadly, we’ve seen for far too long, individuals who simply have not been held accountable for their crimes,” said Republican Rep. Bob Donovan, who previously served for two decades on the Milwaukee Common Council.


“We need a crackdown,” he said. “But that’s not happening. Our judges are timid; our mayor is afraid to call for that kind of stuff.”

Democratic Rep. Deb Andraca, who was a gun safety activist before running for office, said legislative Democrats plan to bring back a number of gun laws they’ve proposed in previous sessions, including red flag laws, tax breaks for safe gun storage, and more.

“We know what works. We’ve seen the data,” Andraca said. “States that have stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths.”


Now, I actually agree with Andraca about tax breaks for gun storage devices. I think that's a rare point of agreement between both pro- and anti-gunners. Making gun safes and locks more accessible is a very good thing and tax breaks are a way to do just that.

But Milwaukee is having a problem with violent crime. Gun storage and red flag laws aren't really great about addressing either of those. To put it bluntly, they suck at it.

In fact, red flag laws aren't designed to address violent crime as a whole. At best, they're used to stop rage-fueled attacks like mass shootings and suicides. They were never meant to address more pedestrian violent crimes.

While Donovan's slinging of blame, while probably accurate, isn't precisely helpful, Andraca's suggestions are absolutely bonkers. Then again, as most anti-gunners do, she's using the current crisis to push for the things she wanted all along. Red flag laws happen to be that thing in this instance but it could have just as easily been waiting periods or whatever.

In the process, though, we see part of our problem. We can't even begin to agree on where the problem lies. Donovan is right that there isn't a gun problem but a criminal one. The problem has always been with the criminals themselves. Remove the guns and they'd use something else like knives. The issue isn't the tool but the tool using it. It always has been.


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