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Joe Parisi

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi calls on Gov. Scott Walker to take action on gun reform bills. 

Madison-area elected leaders and school representatives advocated for gun reform laws during a press conference Monday. They also said keeping schools and communities safe from violence will take a comprehensive strategy.

Dane County Executive Joe Parisi lamented the lack of action from state and federal legislators on changing gun laws since the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead.

“Since the shooting, Congress has done nothing. The governor and Legislature have done nothing,” Parisi said. “We’re calling on them to be true leaders because true leaders serve their community, not the gun lobby.”  

Parisi, who was joined by state Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, encouraged support of three bills that would institute universal background checks, prohibit individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing a firearm and prohibiting “bump stock” devices, which convert semiautomatic guns into automatic weapons.

The petition also calls for a ban on assault weapons.  

Taylor, who wants Walker to convene a special session on gun reform bills, prioritized keeping dangerous people from accessing guns.

“What we really want to see is on the prevention side,” Taylor said. “If we do not prevent dangerous people from access to guns, I don’t think it necessarily matters what security measures we take.”  

Walker spokesperson Amy Hasenberg said after hearing from teachers, principals and superintendents at listening sessions, the governor allocated funding in the state budget for mental health services in Wisconsin's schools. 

"It is important for schools to do what they can to keep their kids and teachers safe — this will likely be different for every educational institution because all schools have unique challenges," Hasenberg said. "Governor Walker will continue to work with school leaders to address safety in our schools."

Last week, Assembly Republicans rejected a Democratic proposal to require background checks for all gun purchases on a party-line vote after more than four hours of discussion. Republicans offered their own proposal that would provide grants for armed school security officers and strengthen a ban on straw purchases of firearms.

Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel has also said the state should consider letting teachers be armed.

Madison schools Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said as there is an increased demand in schools for additional safety measures, more state funding will will be important to implement strategies that align with best practices.

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School safety is not a political issue, Cheatham said.

“Our students have the right to learn and thrive in an environment that nurture their talents, their sense of belonging, their joy without having to worry about the threat of a school shooting,” Cheatham said.

Madison School Board member Kate Toews said she wants to see interior locks on every classroom door. A School Board committee is also leading an in-depth study of armed Madison police officers in the district’s four high schools.

However, schools “cannot do it alone,” School Board President James Howard said Monday.

“We need our entire community to step up and demand that we do more not only to protect ourselves but to protect our children,” Howard said. 

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Abigail Becker joined The Capital Times in 2016, where she primarily covers city and county government. She previously worked for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the Wisconsin State Journal.