More Republicans across the country are embracing sensible gun laws in the wake of recent massacres in Ohio and Texas.
Wisconsin’s GOP politicians should, too.
“I will support legislation that prevents the sale of military-style weapons to civilians, a magazine limit, and red-flag legislation,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, said last week. “The carnage these military-style weapons are able to produce when available to the wrong people is intolerable.”
He’s right. And it’s no coincidence he represents Dayton, Ohio, where a shooter Aug. 4 with an assault-style weapon and 100-round magazine shot 26 people in 32 seconds, killing nine outside a bar and restaurant. The previous day, a gunman killed 22 people and wounded 25 at an El Paso, Texas, shopping center.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, and other Wisconsin leaders on the political right shouldn’t wait for another mass shooting to devastate lives and communities here in the Midwest before embracing popular and helpful legislation. Johnson should get solidly behind universal background checks on gun purchases, limits on how fast and intense firearms can inflict carnage, and “red flag” laws that let family and law enforcement intervene with individuals who exhibit warning signs of a possible attack.
Johnson is key because he serves in the U.S. Senate, where his Republican Party is stalling a bipartisan House bill that would require consistent background checks on firearms. The bill would close loopholes allowing criminals to purchase high-powered weapons at gun shows or online. Another smart bill would give the FBI more time to do background checks.
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The GOP-run Wisconsin Legislature has irresponsibly moved in the opposite direction, eliminating our state’s longstanding 48-hour waiting period to buy a handgun. The repeal allowed a man in 2016 to legally buy a gun and, the very next day, shoot 24-year-old Caroline Nosal of Stoughton at a Madison grocery store where they had worked.
While most Republican politicians offer little more than thoughts and prayers to the victims of America’s endless string of mass shootings, some conservatives are bucking their party’s anything-goes approach to gun possession.
U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., an Iraq War veteran, said last week he now supports universal background checks, raising the legal age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21, red-flag laws and banning high-capacity magazines.
“We have a gun violence epidemic, and to address it, we need to change some laws and change some hearts,” Kinzinger said.
He’s right, and the vast majority of the public is with him. More than 80 percent of Wisconsin voters in a statewide poll last year supported background checks on private gun sales and at gun shows. So did nearly 80 percent of gun owners.
Sen. Johnson and other Republicans in positions of power to help pass sensible firearm laws should act now, not continue to deflect and stall public safety. Addressing mental health and school security are fine ideas that Johnson says he supports. But ignoring the danger of America’s loose gun laws is a tragic mistake.