Teachers. Students. Parents. Doctors. Business owners. Law enforcement. Hunters. Gun owners.
Over the past seven years that I have had the honor to serve my state, these are just some of the many voices I have had the opportunity to hear from and the pleasure to represent here in the Wisconsin State Capitol. My favorite part of my job as a state representative is to be able to meet with individuals of all backgrounds and belief systems, and to hear the diverse perspectives about the best way to move our state forward.
Yet, these conversations with constituents, advocates, friends and neighbors have not always been easy. Sometimes, we simply disagree about how to enact change to better Wisconsin. At the end of the day, I know my job is to represent the will of the people, and I am proud to continue lifting up the voices of those in the 48th Assembly District and our state.
Other times, these conversations are difficult because they allow me to hear firsthand the struggles that so many Wisconsinites face. Housing unaffordability, low wages, inequity, life-altering medical conditions, insufficient health care and so many other factors continue to stand in the way of happiness and prosperity for our state. But the most challenging conversations of all continue to be the conversations with those who have lost loved ones, or who fear that they will lose a loved one, as a result of gun violence or suicide by firearm.
I have held in my arms the crying parents of a young woman who was murdered here in Madison due to a senseless act of gun violence. I have consoled family, friends and neighbors as they cope with the loss of a suicide-related death. I have seen my kids, and kids across our state, be subjected to terrifying lockdowns and drills to protect against potential shooters. And I have heard the firsthand accounts of doctors, first responders and law enforcement officers who have been on the front lines responding to the horrible tragedies of gun violence and suicide in our community.
The simple fact is that we cannot continue forward as a state and continue to work toward prosperity as our fellow Wisconsinites continue to die in alarming numbers by firearm. For far too many people here in Wisconsin, myself included, our lives continue to be touched by the tragedies of firearm-related deaths, and by fear. We have all been affected by gun violence in some way, and we certainly all know others who have as well — including gun owners.
In my conversations with people across all upbringings and of all political stripes, I have heard from the voices of our state that people want meaningful reforms that prevent these tragedies, while upholding the Second Amendment and the rights of responsible gun owners. The people of Wisconsin know this is not an either/or conversation. They know that we can continue to honor Wisconsin’s rich heritage of hunting and sportsmanship while also enacting policies that will save lives.
Let me be very clear — responsible gun owners, including hunters, collectors, sportsmen, military members and law enforcement — understand that we do not have to choose between the Second Amendment and saving innocent lives. Those who abide by the law and who use firearms for their intended purposes shall not have their rights infringed upon with the policies being proposed here in Wisconsin. There is no excuse for inaction.
Too many lives have been cut short by the horrors of gun violence and suicide, too many others forever changed. The time for action is now, and I commend Gov. Tony Evers for his brave call upon the Wisconsin state Legislature to take meaningful steps to combat this growing public health crisis.
The legislation that Gov. Evers has called for — closing the background check loophole in our state and implementing extreme risk protection orders — are pragmatic and popular solutions to fixable problems. In fact, multiple statewide and national polls show that over 80% of Wisconsinites, including gun owners, support these measures. These policies preserve public safety, prevent tragedy from occurring in our communities and work to ensure necessary due process and respect for responsible gun owners.
These policies have widespread public support, including dissenting voices in the NRA, Republican lawmakers and President Trump, doctors, social workers and employers. Further, those on the front lines — including business owners, gun shops, counties and municipalities, law enforcement and more — have been calling on the state Legislature to act.
As a state, we can, and should, do better. This is not about gun owners versus gun reform advocates. This is not about politics. This is not an us versus them conversation. This is about coming together, despite our differences, and doing the right thing for our state.
Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, represents Wisconsin's 48th Assembly district.