Gov. Tony Evers has called for the Legislature to vote on gun control legislation — a move the Democratic governor said should force a discussion on the matter by Republicans, who control the Assembly and Senate and have been reluctant to hold such a vote.
Evers made the announcement at a Monday press event in Milwaukee, accompanied by supporters, Democratic legislators and survivors of people who died from gun violence.
“I don’t want any political games, I don’t want any procedural shenanigans with the rules, no circumventing of the democratic process, no last-minute amendments, no nonsense,” Evers said, before signing an executive order calling for the Nov. 7 session. “I want Republicans in the Legislature to work with Democrats to send these bills to my desk.”
The bills would require universal background checks for all firearm purchases in Wisconsin and implement so-called red-flag laws, under which people perceived to be threats must surrender their firearms.
Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes cited a recent Marquette University Law School poll that found 80% of Wisconsinites support expanded background checks — including nearly 70% of gun owners — and said Assembly and Senate leaders need to act.
“No one deserves to die by a bullet because of the ignorance of their politicians,” Barnes said.
On Monday, Evers, who in September said he would call for a special session if Republicans didn’t act on gun measures themselves, said he’s hopeful lawmakers pass what he called “common-sense” legislation.
Leaders in the Assembly and Senate, however, do not appear interested in Evers’ legislation, according to statements released Monday from Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
“A special session call will not change where my Assembly Republican colleagues and I stand on protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of Wisconsin citizens,” Vos said in a statement. “As I have repeatedly said, we will not entertain proposals that infringe on our constitutional rights. Today’s call is another indication that Governor Evers stands ready to confiscate guns in our state.”
Fitzgerald in a statement referred to Evers’ comment in September that he would “consider” a gun buy-back program, when asked by reporters at a press conference. Evers later walked back that comment, saying he is focusing on the two measures presented Monday.
“Liberals across the country are upping their rhetoric in support of taking guns from law-abiding citizens,” Fitzgerald said in the statement. “After the governor opened the door to a long-term plan of gun confiscation at his press conference last month, it’s easy to see how today’s action could just be the first attack on the Second Amendment. The Senate will not be part of a drawn-out strategy to infringe on constitutional rights.”
Evers acknowledged that Republican leadership has been “reluctant” to take up gun control legislation, but he added that a special session should force all lawmakers to weigh in on the matter.
“We need an up or down vote,” Evers said. “At the end of the day, how many times can you go against 80% of the people of the state of Wisconsin in developing policy and essentially tell them to go to hell and at the same time expect to be re-elected? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
In a special session, the governor calls the Legislature into session and designates what bills lawmakers should work on. After the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in 2018, former Republican Gov. Scott Walker made a similar move to prompt the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass a $100 million school safety package.
The impact of a special session may be limited, as lawmakers may have to meet but do not have to pass any legislation.
Wisconsin does not require private sellers to conduct a background check when transferring a firearm. Under the bill, most gun sales would go through a licensed gun dealer, which currently must contact the state Department of Justice to conduct a background check to sell a handgun, and the FBI to sell a long gun.