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Locals working to hammer out details on new gun rules

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Gazette staff
June 23, 2011
— Officials of local organizations and governments have a new question to answer now that the concealed carrying of firearms is on its way to becoming legal in Wisconsin—allow it or not?

The question is embodied in the person of Milton Mayor Tom Chesmore, a staunch gun-rights advocate who supports both open and concealed carry in public.


Despite those beliefs, Chesmore draws the line at the Shaw Municipal Building, which houses Milton City Hall, the school district central offices, city council chambers and the Milton Public Library.


Chesmore believes only police should carry guns into City Hall or any other city building. He said he assumes others on the city council would agree.


"When you're dealing with the safety of your city, your personal choices have to be put aside. Your decision's got to be based on the safety of the people in your community," Chesmore said.


Chesmore has watched the video over and over of the gunman who terrorized citizens last year at a Panama City, Fla. school board meeting. The footage terrifies him.


"It opens your eyes. Obviously, those people had their guardian angels with them that night. It's things like that you don't ever want to see happen," Chesmore said.


Chesmore said it should be up to local businesses owners whether they'd allow concealed carry in their businesses, although he believes allowing concealed guns inside taverns "would not be feasible."


"You're asking for trouble," he said.


Here's a roundup of some others who will be dealing with the same issue in the weeks ahead:


YWCA

Leaders at the YWCA of Rock County weren't surprised the Legislature approved concealed carry.


However, "we're disappointed from the standpoint of our women and children, who come into our shelter very vulnerable and scared. This just increased their risk, their fear and their healing process,'' said Allison Hokinson, executive director.


That's why the YWCA will post signs forbidding concealed weapons in its buildings. The signs will be at the main entrances to the Alternatives to Violence domestic violence shelter, Transitional Living Program apartments, CARE House and child-care center, if Gov. Walker signs the bill, she said.


"It was a unanimous decision that we absolutely need signs here for the safety of our victims and our children,'' Hokinson said.


City of Janesville

Janesville Council President George Brunner said it is still early to make any comments.


Brunner said nobody has been able to review the law and its specifics.


"That's something we'll have to take a look at once the governor signs it," Brunner said.


Rock County

Rock County will work to ban guns from as much county property as possible, county board Chairman Russ Podzilni said.


But the county has some research to do.


"We're still looking into what we can and what we cannot do under the law," Podzilni said.


Podzilni and Vice Chairwoman Sandy Kraft talked about the new law during their daily meeting with county staff. Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden joined them Wednesday morning.


"We talked about how you can't have a gun in the jail, but they (inmates) can keep them in their cars in the parking lot at the jail," Podzilni said.


The law bans weapons from courthouses. Podzilni said he is particularly concerned about the possibility of people carrying weapons on the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.


Evansville

Evansville City Council President Mason Braunschweig said he will "definitely initiate some sort of action" to prohibit concealed weapons in city buildings.


"That's on the basis there's just no place for that in public buildings," he said. "I don't think there's any need. If you look at the rationale behind the way the Legislature did (this), they made it simple to prohibit (concealed weapons) from public buildings."


The council has not yet discussed the issue.


Braunschweig has not seen the bill's final version, but from his reading of the Senate version, it "seems it would be a very simple process for a municipality to ban concealed weapons from public buildings."


He said his comments are not a reflection of his personal beliefs about the law but just "what I feel is in the best interest of the city."


Walworth County Fairgrounds

Walworth County Fair Board President Ed Sokolowski said concealed weapons would not be allowed at any time on the fairgrounds in Elkhorn.


"We are going to post signs at all of the entrances that concealed weapons are not allowed on our property," he said. "We as property owners have the discretion of allowing or not allowing weapons on the property."


The 100-acre fairgrounds, its buildings and infrastructure are owned by the Walworth County Agricultural Society, a non-profit group. The fair board runs the society, Sokolowski said.


What's a school?

Schools are no-gun zones under the new law as well as previous law, but what about a school district building that's not a school? A good example is the Janesville School District's administration building, the Educational Services Center.


School district spokeswoman Sheryl Miller said there are more questions than answers. The first question is whether the building might qualify as a school. If not, then what's the best way of keeping firearms out, Miller said. Posting signs on the doors might be the way to go, but the district is waiting for legal guidance and is consulting the state Department of Public Instruction, law enforcement and others, Miller said.


"Right now, it's brand new, and we're trying to figure it all out," Miller said.


Recreation

Jim Drescher, an owner of Lake Lawn Resort in Delavan, said the issue will be brought up at tonight's owners meeting.


A policy of being for or against concealed carry on the resort grounds, including its 18-hole golf course, must be determined before the establishment fully reopens, Drescher said.


Another popular gathering place is Sperino's The Monte Carlo Room in Elkhorn, owned by Chris and Sherry Aune. Many of Walworth County's Republican Party events are held there.


Chris Aune said he had "not given much thought" about allowing or barring concealed carry in the banquet hall.


"I'm a believer in being able to do it," Aune said of concealed carry. "I just don't know if there should be alcohol."


Aune said he needs to research the soon-to-be law before reaching a decision.


Gazette reporters Shelly Birkelo, Gina Duwe, Darryl Enriquez, Neil Johnson, Marcia Nelesen and Frank Schultz contributed to this report.

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