Plan would let permit holders take guns to schools
MADISON, Wis. — Anyone with a concealed weapons permit could carry a gun onto school grounds in Wisconsin under a proposal being put to a vote Thursday by the Republican chairman of the Assembly Criminal Justice Committee.
The proposed amendment would dramatically broaden the scope of a bill that would allow off-duty, out-of-state and retired police officers to bring concealed weapons into any private building, including schools, where concealed weapons are not permitted.
Allowing any of the roughly 203,000 people who have a concealed weapon permit to bring a gun to school doesn’t have enough votes in the Republican-controlled committee to pass, said its sponsor, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc. The goal, he said, was to start a discussion about school safety.
“I’m not sure the citizens of Wisconsin want concealed weapons holders on school grounds,” Kleefisch said Wednesday. “But it’s going to get a vote, up or down.”
Forcing a vote on the idea is a high-stakes way to start a discussion, said Democratic Rep. Evan Goyke, a member of the committee that will consider the amendment.
“We’ve got to defeat it. It’s a terrible amendment,” Goyke said. “It is very dangerous and unnecessary. My biggest problem is: How can a school know who is armed and who is unarmed and who is allowed to be armed and who is not allowed to be armed?”
The goal is to make schools safer, Kleefisch said. Schools need armed people who can fight back if there is an attack, he said.
But Goyke said that argument doesn’t make sense.
“Good guys and good-intentioned people may sometimes act inconsistent with their intentions,” he said.
The amendment allowing anyone to carry concealed weapons was introduced on Oct. 15, five days after the public hearing on the more limited bill. Kleefisch said he decided to introduce it as an amendment and not a separate bill based on the discussion at the hearing, not for any strategic reason.
The nine-member committee consists of six Republicans and three Democrats. The amendment would have to get at least five votes to be added to the bill, which would then have to clear the committee as well as both the Assembly and Senate before it would go to Republican Gov. Scott Walker for his consideration.
A spokeswoman for Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not immediately return a message seeking comment on whether he supports the bill. A spokesman for Walker also did not immediately return a message.
A number of organizations have registered in opposition to the idea in the two weeks since Kleefisch introduced it. That includes the city of Milwaukee and groups representing school boards, school business officials and district administrators.
Other groups, including six representing law enforcement officers around the state and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, support the original bill allowing officers to carry them on school grounds. The Department of Justice, which processes applications for concealed weapons permits, has not taken a position on Kleefisch’s amendment.
The department does not know how many of the 203,000 concealed carry permits have gone to current or retired law enforcement officers.