Three Democrats introduced legislation Wednesday to ban weapons on college campuses, two days after Republicans proposed their own bill to allow concealed carry license holders to bring guns inside the buildings of Wisconsin’s public colleges and universities.
The Democratic proposal would make carrying a weapon anywhere on campus a class I felony, and comes from Madison Reps. Chris Taylor, Melissa Sargent and Terese Berceau.
Under current law, anyone with a concealed weapons permit may carry a firearm on the grounds of public colleges and universities, though many of those institutions — including UW-Madison — prohibit weapons inside campus buildings.
The Democrats’ bill would make Wisconsin the 20th state in the country to ban concealed weapons on college campuses, but it is unlikely to move forward in a Legislature controlled by Republicans.
“Attempts to allow guns on campuses are dangerous and misguided,” the bill’s authors said in a co-sponsorship memorandum. “This common-sense bill ensures the safety of our students, staff and faculty.”
A proposal introduced Monday by Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, would revoke the exception in the concealed carry law that allows colleges to ban guns from buildings, clearing the way for permit holders to bring weapons into classrooms, dormitories and stadiums. The bill is being circulated for co-sponsors.
It has been met with a raft of opposition from campus officials — the chancellors of every University of Wisconsin System institution and the Wisconsin Technical College System say they are against the bill — as well as UW-Madison police, and many students, faculty and staff members. Taylor and Sargent have also sharply criticized the Republican proposal.
UW System spokesman Alex Hummel said officials shared their concerns over the bill with LeMahieu and Kremer, and said conversations with the representatives are “just getting started.”
Neither Kremer nor LeMahieu returned messages Wednesday seeking comment on the Democrats’ proposal.
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Hummel said of the Democrats’ proposal, “We will review the bill closely and work with legislators to ensure our laws provide us the greatest ability to keep our campus communities safe.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Wisconsin is one of eight states that allow permit holders to carry concealed weapons on college campuses.
Twenty-three states leave the decision on banning or allowing weapons to the individual universities and colleges.
Suzanne Hultin, a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said her organization has noticed proposals to allow concealed carry on campus have been more popular in recent years.
“We’ve definitely seen a trend in the number of states that are introducing legislation on this,” Hultin said.
It’s not clear whether recent attention on school and college shootings are driving the push to allow students and others to be armed on campus, Hultin said.
Kremer has denied his proposal was prompted by the fatal shooting two weeks ago of nine people at an Oregon community college, saying it is instead meant to give college students — who opt to walk to and from classes unarmed because they can’t enter buildings with weapons — a way to defend themselves against crime around campus.
LeMahieu has said barring guns from campuses has made them “soft targets for homicidal maniacs.”