Hats off to Gov. Tony Evers for calling out Wisconsin legislative Republicans' position on guns for what it is — BS.
Evers made his blunt assessment after GOP leaders Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald, dutifully followed by their submissive colleagues in the Assembly and Senate, announced they had no intention of even considering Evers' proposals to address what has become a national crisis.
In the wake of the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings and calls from the public that government officials do something, Evers proposed that Wisconsin enact a universal background check procedure and pass a red-flag law that would establish a process for a judge to remove guns from a person determined to be a threat to themselves or others.
Sound sensible? No, not to this group of NRA-backed legislators who, like their ilk in all too many other states and in Congress, can't bring themselves to do — or, at least, try — one thing to address the violence in our gun-cultured nation.
Vos and Fitzgerald trotted out the old NRA talking points that passing such laws will lead to the repeal of Americans' Second Amendment rights and the confiscation of all firearms, including hunting guns and rifles. They know full well that, as Tony Evers says, is nothing but b.s.
One of the Vos-Fitzgerald puppets, Rep. Joe Sanfelippo of the Milwaukee suburb of New Berlin, introduced a new twist in an op-ed he distributed to state newspapers last week. He accused Democrats of "exploiting" the tragedies for political gain while hypocritically ignoring crimes in the inner city.
Like so many of his head-in-the-sand colleagues, he implied that tighter gun controls will fix nothing, an assertion that flies in the face of the successes of states and localities that have gone off on their own to strengthen background checks and limiting assault weapons.
Just how long are politicians like Sanfelippo going to get by with brushing off every mass shooting by claiming gun laws won't fix anything and accusing those who want something — anything — to be done, including 80 percent of Americans, of grandstanding? Again, why do the world's other democracies not experience what we do?
Despite their penchant to once again ignore everything, preferring to defend the status quo that has made America an outlier among civilized nations, Evers is determined not to let them get off so easy.
If the GOP leaders won't at least consider his proposals to expand background checks and enact "red-flag" legislation, he has promised to call the Assembly and Senate into special session and force them to look at the bills. And, if they decide to merely open the session and then adjourn without even debating gun laws, Evers believes they'll need to answer to the voters at their next election.
It's easy to envision Vos, Fitzgerald and the other defenders of the failed gun culture status quo shrugging off such foolishness as suggesting they might be in trouble with the voters. But when you can all but guarantee your reelection through clever gerrymandering, that's a tougher chore than it ought to be. Yet, it's becoming clear that many Americans are getting fed up with the inaction by our political leaders and the escalating number of innocent deaths.
What many of these pro-gun-at-any-cost politicians don't seem to know is that our gun mania isn't just causing the U.S. problems.
Late last month, the New York Times ran a lengthy piece describing how guns from the U.S. are being smuggled into Central and South American countries and are ending up in the hands of gangs and outlaws. Every month, more than 200 illegal guns are smuggled into the small island country of Jamaica alone. It's estimated that more than 200,000 illegal firearms flow from the U.S. into Mexico each year.
While Jamaica, for example, has a strict gun law of its own — there are only 45,000 legal guns among its 3 million people — gun-connected crime has risen dramatically. It's estimated that up to 80% of the homicides in Jamaica have been perpetrated with guns smuggled into the country from the United States.
"Many people in the U.S. see gun control as a purely domestic issue," said Anthony Clayton, the author of Jamaica's national security policy. But, Americas's "long suffering neighbors, whose citizens are being murdered by U.S. weapons, have a very different perspective."
To top it off, U.S. gun regulations are so weak that it's next to impossible to track exactly where the guns originated. As the story pointed out, only a few American states mandate registration of firearms. In fact, several states explicitly prohibit it. There is no comprehensive registry of gun ownership and the federal government is forbidden to create one.
This is the gun culture Congress ignores and Wisconsin legislative Republicans defend while belittling any attempt to at least try something.
Doesn't that make any American proud?
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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