East Towne Mall Sign

A sign on one of the doors at East Towne Mall warns patrons that weapons are prohibited.

The shooting of a man inside East Towne Mall on Saturday during a busy holiday shopping afternoon prompted a Republican lawmaker to criticize gun-free zones and call on average citizens to “help clean our society of these scumbags.”

The statement Monday from Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, prompted a blistering reply from a Madison lawmaker, who said he was seeking vigilante justice.

Gannon said allowing citizens with permits to carry concealed weapons into areas like shopping malls would enhance the public’s safety.

“Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law-abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scumbags,” Gannon said. “Criminals no longer have any fear of our courts or our prisons, so it’s time that the citizens of this fine state stand up and fight back.”

Police are continuing to search for a person who shot the man Saturday afternoon.

The 19-year-old was shot in the leg after a dispute inside the mall involving at least 10 people, Madison police said. His injuries were not life-threatening, according to authorities.

Gannon said a “gang banger in the mall with a gun is going to think twice if there could be a law abiding (concealed carry weapon) holder standing behind them fully prepared to shoot center mass, as this is how you’re trained to eliminate the threat these creeps pose to you, your family, and all law-abiding citizens unwillingly dragged into their public crime spree.”

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Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said she was “appalled” by Gannon’s statement, characterizing his comments as a call “for a vigilante uprising.”

“Representative Gannon is living in a James Bond dream world,” Taylor said in a statement. “If more guns made us safer, we would be the safest country in the world. We should be making guns like the one used at East Towne Mall more difficult to obtain for those who abuse the law.”

The mall, filled with hundreds of people during one of the busiest shopping days of the year, was sent into a panic after gunfire was heard, witnesses said. Police said a ricocheting bullet struck the pant leg of a mall employee, but the person was not injured.

Gannon said he won’t set foot in East Towne because “I refuse to spend my money at any business that believes my Second Amendment rights have to be left in my car.”

Sean Phillips, spokesman for the mall, said there are no plans to change the mall’s security procedures.

“The safety and comfort of our shoppers, employees and tenants is our top priority,” he said in an emailed statement. “Mall security is a 24/7 365-day program inside and outside the property, and plans are adjusted based on traffic levels and peak shopping days/times. We will continue to work with local police department to ensure our standards are maintained.”

Taylor said Gannon “should recognize that it is possible to keep our communities safe while respecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

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