Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin urged President Donald Trump on Thursday to bring forward gun control measures, while slamming the National Rifle Association and saying high school students are forcing politicians to consider change in the wake of the Florida shooting.
Baldwin, speaking at a Wispolitics.com luncheon in Madison, said she sensed the reaction to last week’s shooting at Parkland High School that left 17 dead is different from other recent mass shootings.
“This is a different moment,” Baldwin said. “For years and years we’ve had tragedies like this and there’s been inaction ... These teens, these children, are organizing in a way that I haven’t seen before and I think we’re just seeing the start of it. I don’t think they’re going to let go.”
Baldwin said she was encouraged that Trump earlier Thursday endorsed a higher minimum age for buying certain powerful rifles, tighter background checks for purchasers and a ban on the sale of bump stocks. She called on the president to speak with House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, to bring the measures forward in the GOP-controlled Congress.
State Sen. Leah Vukmir, one of two Republicans running for a chance to take on Baldwin, attended the luncheon as a member of the audience and said afterward that she didn’t support raising the minimum age to 21 as has Trump suggested. Vukmir said she was open to changes on background checks especially as it pertains to people with mental illness, as long as gun rights are protected, but would like to hear the ATF’s position about banning bump stocks before taking a position on that.
Kevin Nicholson, the other Republican running, did not attend the luncheon. His campaign spokesman did not return a message seeking comment.
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Some Republicans are voicing support for allowing teachers to be armed in the classroom as a way to defend students against mass shootings. But Baldwin opposes that approach, saying that’s not what teachers were trained to do.
“I do not think arming our schools and arming our teachers makes any sense at all. I would strongly oppose that,” Baldwin said. Police are trained when responding to a shooting to look for a person with a weapon, and having innocent teachers armed “could have catastrophic, unintended consequences,” she said.
Baldwin, who said she is a gun owner, also blasted the NRA saying it is out of touch with many of its members who would support universal background checks.
“I think they are fronts for the gun manufacturers and too many politicians are beholden to the NRA and that’s wrong,” she said.
Vukmir asked Baldwin during the Q&A portion of the lunch why she voted against the recently passed Republican tax overhaul. Baldwin and other Democrats have criticized the new law because middle class tax cuts will gradually fade and then morph into tax hikes as individual tax cuts expire after 2025.
“I don’t begrudge anybody the tax return they’re going to get, the relief they’re going to get, I just wish it was permanent,” Baldwin said to Vukmir. Baldwin also said the law was skewed in favor of corporations and the wealthy over the middle class.
Vukmir said afterward she too would like to see the middle class tax cuts be permanent.
“For years and years we’ve had tragedies like this and there’s been inaction ... These teens, these children, are organizing in a way that I haven’t seen before, and I think we’re just seeing the start of it. I don’t think they’re going to let go.” — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin