Area lawmakers weigh in on response to shooting
Most area lawmakers seem to agree that something should be done in the wake of the mass shooting Dec. 14 at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school, but they also agree the problem is complex.
None offered specific recommendations.
The Gazette asked area lawmakers the following question:
What should be the legislative response, if any, to last week's school shooting in Connecticut?
These are their responses:
State Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville: "As a father and grandfather, I was shocked and devastated by the school shooting in Newtown. It is difficult to comprehend this senseless act of evil perpetrated on those most vulnerable—young children.
"As a nation, we must address the unnecessary access to assault weapons with high-capacity magazines. It is time to find meaningful ways to prevent tragedies like those in Newtown and Oak Creek."
State Rep. Andy Jorgenson, D-Fort Atkinson: "The evil acts of one man last week have devastated countless families and shocked us all.
"As terror became sorrow, and the magnitude of our losses sank in, we as a nation began important conversations about our gun laws, access to mental health care and school safety.
"My hope is that my colleagues in the Legislature and I will take the next step in the weeks and months ahead, turning talk into action in the form of measures that will help to prevent mass shootings like the one in Newtown, Conn., and the two we here in Wisconsin witnessed in the past year.
"The solution to these acts of random violence is not immediately clear, and, I suspect, will be multi-faceted, but we must tackle the complexity of this issue. Our children, our neighbors, our partners in law enforcement: they deserve our very best effort to improve public safety.
"As we work, I—like so many of you—continue to mourn for the families of those lost last Friday and pray for all involved."
State Sen. Neal Kedzie, R-Elkhorn: "Like the rest of the nation, I was horrified to first hear the news of this mass shooting, then watch as the events of the day only got worse. It was an unconscionable act perpetrated by an extremely disturbed individual who lost touch with reality and his own sanity.
"As parents of three children, my wife and I joined parents across this state and nation in sheer anguish, grief, and sorrow. Our hearts and our prayers go out to those parents whose child was taken from them too soon and in such a terrible way. Sadly, anything we do will never relieve them of their pain.
"As we all learn more of this tragic day and the individual who committed such a heinous act, the debate among both lawmakers and the general public regarding a myriad of issues starts once again. Everyone is in search for solutions, or at least some immediate answers. However, most recognize this is, and will continue to be, a very complex and difficult problem to solve.
"That said, we each have a responsibility to lend our individual thoughts and ideas to this issue in the hopes we can someday bring an end to such heart-breaking and painful tragedies."
State Representative-elect Deb Kolste, D-Janesville: "The question of how to curb mass killings in this country has no simple or single answer. Editorials and articles in The Gazette and other media show that the problem defies a simple solution.
"Even staunch gun advocates have said in recent days that changes are necessary. I think that we can enact reasonable gun control provisions that don't abridge the Second Amendment rights of sane, law-abiding citizens. I want to make sure that whatever I support has a chance to work.
"I want to study questions about assault weapons, ammunition, thoroughness of background checks and the availability of mental health care. I think violent entertainment media might contribute to violence in society and ought to be studied.
"I think a key is keeping weapons ought of the hands of children and the mentally ill, and I want to find ways to do that.
"I refuse to believe that fixing this problem is impossible and that we should simply continue the status quo while awaiting the next disaster.
"We have Second Amendment rights in this country and freedom of speech and expression under the First Amendment, however we must find ways to protect these basic American rights while providing a reasonable assurance of safety. Just about every other modern democracy in the world provides basic freedoms without accepting the astronomical number of shootings we accept in our country."
State Rep. Amy Loudenbeck, R-Clinton: She said she was "generally opposed to any further restriction on the ability of law-abiding citizens to possess firearms."
"However, I do support measures to keep firearms out of the hands of criminals."
Last session, she voted in support of Wisconsin Act 99 that increases penalties for receiving or concealing stolen firearms.
"It is important to note that in Wisconsin, there is an additional level of reporting for background checks which was added in 2010," Loudenbeck wrote. "I support this effort to go beyond the federal requirements for background checks to help ensure that firearms are not purchased by individuals with serious mental health issues."
State Rep. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville: "It's such a horrendous act, for 6 and 7 year olds. … I think automatic-type weapons that are available to people needs to be addressed. They're not even for hunting—there's no valid reason to have that kind (of weapons).
"I think we need to look at some serious legislation about having those type of guns available."
Ringhand noted she was not in favor of the state's concealed carry law, but she doubts it will be overturned.
People "at least need to be realistic" in understanding the consequences of using guns, Ringhand said, but she admits that would make no difference to people such as Adam Lanza. Still, guns were available to him, she said.
"We need stronger measures to prevent that. It's unconscionable," she said.
She stressed better training before any kind of permit is issued. In the last legislative session, the attorney general's office attempted to put in a four-hour training requirement, but the National Rifle Association fought it "tooth and nail," she said.
"We've got to get some common sense back into it," she said, noting the public is up in arms about making changes to "get rid of the automatic weapons and put stronger controls on who is getting these guns and for what purposes and training."
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville: "My thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those affected by the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.
"I'm heartbroken to hear many of the victims were young children and that it took place in classrooms, where our students should feel safe and secure. Our schools are where our nation's youth come to learn, and it is horrifying to think that this nurturing environment was a scene of such senseless violence.
"At this trying time, we stand together with the people of Connecticut, and we share their grief over the loss of life."
The Gazette was unable to reach Congressman-elect Mark Pocan, D-Madison; and Rep. Tyler August, R-Lake Geneva.