I am part of the 80% Coalition—a collection of advocacy organizations, businesses and social service groups—and we are calling today for the immediate passage of meaningful legislation to reform our existing firearm laws.
We are tired of watching our fellow Americans become victims of gun violence. We are heartbroken from the stories. We have seen images of 6-year-old Stephen Romero killed in Gilroy, California. We have heard the story of the young mom and dad in El Paso, Texas, who together shielding their 2-month-old baby were both killed by the same bullet, leaving their child parentless. These stories remind us of the tragedies we suffered in Oak Creek and Brookfield.
The fear across Wisconsin is real. For the first time in history, many Wisconsin parents added bulletproof backpacks to their children’s school supply lists. Clergy now regularly instruct congregants to look for the nearest exit upon entering houses of worship, and children regularly participate in lockdown drills at school.
But there are common-sense measures we can take to stem the violence. And with overwhelming public support, we look to our elected representatives to take real steps to save Wisconsin lives.
Background checks work. To date, more than 3.5 million sales of firearms have been blocked by background checks. Sadly, current law only requires background checks on sales conducted by licensed dealers. This legislative loophole allows convicted violent felons and domestic abusers to purchase the weapons they are prohibited from purchasing and possessing, either online, at a gun a show or in person from a private seller. This “no-background-check market” has turned into a booming business. In 2018 alone, one website ran more than 1.2 million online ads for firearm sales that did not require background checks.
Not only is reform needed to stem domestic terror and crime. It’s also required to reduce the number of lives lost to suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 664 people in Wisconsin were killed with firearms in 2016. That includes 455 individuals who took their own lives. Access to guns increases the risk of suicide three-fold, studies show.
While our state is deeply divided on many issues, common-sense reform to our gun laws is not one of them. The Aug. 25-29 Marquette Law School Poll found 80% of Wisconsin voters favored closing the background check loophole and “making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.” Even more telling, 75% of households with a firearm and 88% of households without firearms agreed this reform was needed with the majority agreeing that “it would reduce the number of mass shootings.”
For the safety of our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, we urge our elected representatives to put the lives of Wisconsinites before the interests of special interest groups and immediately pass the following:
- Legislation that extends the current background check requirement to include any sale or transfer of firearms at gun shows, online or from an individual in a private sale.
- Extreme risk protection order legislation that allows law enforcement or family members to petition the court if they believe an individual with a firearm is a danger to themselves and/or to others. If the threat is found to be credible, empower law enforcement to retrieve the firearm(s) until the threat has ended.
- A resolution condemning domestic terrorism.
Wisconsinites can accomplish anything when we come together and seek solutions to address today’s most pressing concerns. Now we expect our elected officials to do the same.