Wisconsin stands on the verge of becoming the 49th state in the country to allow citizens to carry concealed guns, after the state Assembly voted to legalize that practice Tuesday.
The measure passed 68-27 on a solid bipartisan margin. The approval of the bill marks one more piece of long-blocked legislation that Republicans have been able to pass now that they control all of state government. The bill to allow the concealed carry of guns and other weapons like Tasers passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote last week, so approval in the Assembly sends the bill to Gov. Scott Walker, who supports the measure.
Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette) said the measure restored the right of law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon for their protection."This right is for all citizens of Wisconsin that follow the law," Nygren said.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms is recognized as a fundamental right, akin to freedom of speech and freedom of religion; state restriction on such a fundamental right ought to be recognized as being as inimical to our republic as slavery. In fact, however, politicians have long curried favor with those opposing the free exercise of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution by trying to legislate away the clear text and tradition at the bedrock of this civilization.
Although the passage of Wisconsin’s concealed carry law seems to have received little attention outside the state, it is among the most significant developments regarding Second Amendment liberties this year. The bill is imperfect — it does not go as far as measures in Alaska, Arizona, and Vermont toward bringing state law into conformity with the text of the U.S. Constitution — but it is the latest indication of a substantial shift in American opinion in favor of Second Amendment rights. For example, the crass attempt of national and local politicians to exploit the tragic shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) earlier this year in an effort to bring back the draconian, unconstitutional provisions of the old Brady Bill, fell flat.
According to a story in the Chicago Tribune, the Wisconsin measure enjoyed significant bipartisan support: “The measure cleared the state Senate 25-8 last week, with six Democrats voting in its favor. It passed the Assembly 68-27 on Tuesday, with 11 Democrats and one independent joining 56 Republicans in support. One Republican, Rep. Don Pridemore of Hartford, voted against the measure.” At a time when the two parties seem incapable of agreeing on the time of day in Washington, D.C., seeing a measure of agreement in restoring at least elements of a long-abused right of the people is an encouraging development.
The date for implementation of the new law is uncertain, since it will depend on when Gov. Walker signs the bill. If Walker signs the measure before the end of June, it would take effect in October, but if he waits for a symbolic signing on July 4, implementation of the law will be delayed until November, on account of the stipulations in the legislation.
The Chicago Tribune article observed that Illinois will soon enjoy a reputation for being the least free when it comes to respecting the Second Amendment rights of its citizens; in the words of the report, when Walker signs the bill, “Illinois will be the only state to still prohibit the carrying of guns, knives and other concealed weapons. A bill that would have ended the ban in Illinois failed in the House by six votes in May after Gov. Pat Quinn threatened to veto it.” Given the shift in public opinion, and the tide of events which has led to the Wisconsin legislation, one may wonder whether Gov. Quinn would dare such a veto today.
How law enforcement throughout Wisconsin will react to the restoration of the rights of the state’s citizens remains to be seen. For the sheriff of Racine County, the change is “nothing to fear.” Andrew Beckett reports for Wisconsin Radio Network:
Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling says he has nothing to fear about law abiding citizens carrying a concealed gun, since the bill does require a permit, background check, and training. Schmaling says that will prevent the average citizen from just “strapping a weapon on their hip” without really knowing what kind of gun they have.
Schmaling says his deputies, and most law enforcement, already train to handle every encounter as if a weapon could be involved. As a result, he believes there will be little change in how his officers deal with calls. He says the measure does involve a lot of responsibility, which he believes will turn some people off of the idea of carrying a concealed weapon. Schmaling just worries it could result in some people still not following the law and carrying without a license.
Schmaling and his deputies already respond to every call “as if a weapon could be involved” because criminals have ignored the various unconstitutional restrictions on gun ownership, and will continue to do so. The fact that felons are usually barred from owning and carrying firearms has had little impact on the levels of recidivism by violent criminals. The people who have been effectively prevented from carrying weapons are those who are the first line of public defense: the law-abiding citizens who are prepared to defend themselves and those around them from the actions of criminals.
Constitutionalists know that the best step for Wisconsin and other states of the union would be to follow the lead of states such as Arizona, Alaska, and Vermont and proceed to further conformity with the actual liberties enshrined in the Constitution.