There’s been no official introduction of a bill to allow concealed carry permit holders to pack guns inside University of Wisconsin-Madison buildings, but students and faculty are already lining up to oppose one they anticipate is due when the Legislature convenes in 2017.
A petition to oppose the measure has garnered more than 1,000 signatures in a week, and activists expect to have more than 3,000 names before delivering the document to lawmakers next month.
The push includes the Facebook page “Keep Guns off the UW Madison Campus,” a Day of Action on Dec. 15, where volunteers plan to set up stations at public spots like Union South and the Gordon Dining and Event Center.
And then, there are the marital aids.
Emulating the “Cocks Not Glocks” campaign that made sex toys hanging from backpacks a regular feature on the University of Texas at Austin campus after a campus carry law passed last year, activists plan to arm students with dildos “as a method of fighting the absurdity of guns in classrooms,” said Katherine Kerwin, the driving force behind several of the efforts.
“We actually have 200 sex toys on their way right now,” she said. “We’re going to be breaking those out as soon as the bill gets introduced.”
Kerwin, a member of the Associated Students of Madison student council who serves on the Legislative Affairs Committee, said she has been told by university officials that a new “campus carry” bill, a version of which failed last session, is on its way early in the upcoming legislative session. And the timing may skirt campus opposition.
“It looks like Republicans in the Legislature are planning to introduce a bill sometime in early January, while we’re still all home,” said the energetic sophomore. “So right now is the time the push needs to come.”
The proposal to revive the campus carry effort is coming from state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, a co-sponsor of the measure last session.
On the Wisconsin Gun Owners website, Kremer has included his own petition for supporters of the measure.
Kremer confirmed that the proposal is one of several pro-gun initiatives he plans to introduce early in the coming legislative session. He’s also working with other Republican lawmakers on introducing a “constitutional carry” law, which would allow anyone who can legally own a firearm to carry it without a permit. He said the permit process would still be in place so that gun owners could carry their firearms in states with reciprocity agreements. A permit also would likely be required to carry a firearm on campus, he said.
He’s also planning on introducing a bill that would allow permit holders to pack heat in private K-12 schools.
A proposal to allow armed individuals with concealed carry permits to enter Wisconsin schools, public or private, died a swift death in 2013 amid a storm of criticism. And last spring a similar measure sputtered without getting a committee hearing.
This time, Kremer said, he’s narrowing the proposal to private and parochial schools.
“We know a lot of private parochial do want this,” he said. “Public, we’ll try to do it. But, you know, there are a lot of lobbying interest that would not want it. That might be a little harder step to take.”
Whether or not his gun proposals would be rolled out separately or in one “big Second Amendment rights bill” is still up in the air.
“We’ll see that in the next couple of months,” he said.
Also uncertain is support from Republic leadership. Kremer said he has met with staffers in Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ office, but “I have really gotten no guidance or direction. I think we’ll just do what we want to do for legislators who want to roll this stuff out.”
Jeri Bonavia, executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE), said the proposals come despite consistent opposition from a majority of Wisconsin residents.
“Every session we see a number of the gun lobby’s dream list of legislation coming up,” she said. “What’s been clear in the past and what remains true now is that these are not bills that the citizens of Wisconsin are asking for or desiring. Every time they’ve been introduced there’s been a huge push-back coming from the public from citizens who are expressing outrage.”
But Republicans have repeatedly managed to pass gun bills that lack strong public support.
In 2011, the Legislature passed a bill allowing concealed carry of firearms while state support was essentially split. Last year, Gov. Scott Walker signed a repeal of the state’s nearly 40-year-old 48-hour waiting period on handgun sales, despite polls indicating that a majority of Americans support it. Republicans have also snubbed expanded background checks, while state polls show strong support.
“They get pressure from the pro-gun lobby to move on some of these really radical and dangerous ideas,” Bonavia said of pro-gun lawmakers. “I think they’re doing something to keep their special interests happy rather than the people of Wisconsin.”
The fate of the campus carry bill, however, appears to have little traction, even among the Republicans.
State Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, who co-sponsored the bill last year with Kremer, has no plans to sponsor it again, a staffer said.
And Vos, who controls the flow of legislation in his role as speaker, said last year he hasn’t heard a “huge outcry” in support of it.
But Kerwin, the UW-Madison anti-gun activist, is taking nothing for granted.
“On campus we are expecting it to pass,” she said. “We’re still fighting super hard with this opposition movement but we’re expecting the worst next session in early January.”