Members of Mothers Against Gun Violence, March for Our Lives and other groups rallied outside the Wisconsin Capitol last week in support of Gov. Tony Evers’ modest proposals to address gun violence. It was cold. But the crowd was enthusiastic about delivering the message that it is time for state legislators to respond to the will of the people.
They explained that:
THE TIME WAS RIGHT TO ACT: Following the August mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, which left 31 people dead in one weekend, Evers proposed a pair of sensible moves: a bill to require background checks for gun purchases and a bill to establish a “red-flag law” to take allow a judge to temporarily order persons who have been deemed dangerous (as a suicide risk or a threat to others) to surrender their guns.
THE FORUM WAS APPROPRIATE: Evers called a special session of the Legislature so that the state Assembly and Senate could engage in a serious debate about the proposals. Instead of attempting to use budget deliberations to address a contentious issue — as often happens — the governor gave legislators an opportunity to focus on the gun debate in a way that might promote honest dialogue and negotiations. Evers is not naive. He knows that getting people who disagree talking with one another is hard. But he also knows that a special session is the right vehicle for addressing big issues and doing the heavy lifting of governing,
THE PROPOSALS REPRESENTED THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE: Pointing to a recent Marquette Law School Poll that showed 80 percent of Wisconsinites support expanded background checks — and that almost 70 percent of gun owners are on board for the proposal — those who rallied outside the Capitol referred to themselves as the 80 Percent Coalition. Actually, they could have called it the 81 Percent Coalition, because that’s the level of support the Marquette survey found for the “red-flag” measure. “These are not partisan issues," explained Attorney General Josh Kaul. "They are common-sense public safety issues. They are issues supported by a majority of Democrats, they’re supported by a majority of Republicans, they’re supported by a majority of gun owners.” That was the plain and simple truth. No honest Wisconsinite questioned the popularity of the legislation Evers had proposed.
Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, is not an honest Wisconsinite. Fitzgerald is a gun-industry stooge who refuses to govern. Though Evers had called for a special session that was to begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, Fitzgerald waited until after nightfall, when there were no other legislators in the Senate chamber, to bring the special session to order. Then, seconds later, Fitzgerald adjourned it.
No votes on the proposals.
Fitzgerald just shut it down.
It was a stunning display of arrogance by a majority leader who has no respect for his position, for the Legislature or for the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites. He had the audacity to announce that the bills did not “make sense to Republican legislators.” And to say that “there’s no momentum for them.”
Far be it from us to suggest that the members of Fitzgerald’s caucus are the brightest bulbs in the Capitol. But we think the bills made sense — even to Republican legislators. And we know, from the polls, from the crowds, from the fact that Evers and Kaul just beat a governor and an attorney general who opposed action to address gun violence, that there was momentum for them.
Fitzgerald was lying to himself, to the Legislature and to the people of Wisconsin.
Who was he lying on behalf? Not gun owners. Not Republicans. Not the vast majority of voters. No, he was lying on behalf of the gun industry, which profits from the unregulated and irresponsible trafficking in deadly weapons.
Presumably, Fitzgerald imagines that if he lies enough, cheats enough and denies the will of the people enough, the gun industry will see him as sufficiently disreputable to earn the industry’s support for his bid to win the 5th Congressional District seat, which he is competing for in 2020. We understand what motivates him.
Hopefully, Fitzgerald’s political machinations will convince the voters of the 5th District to reject him as the charlatan that he is.
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