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Wisconsin Moms Demand Action, Students Demand Action, Everytown Respond After Senate Majority Leader Refuses to Allow Debate on Background Checks and Red Flag Bills

Just This Week, Virginians Kicked Out Lawmakers Who Refused to Take Action After Virginia’s Special Session Earlier this Year

MADISON, Wis. – The Wisconsin chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Students Demand Action, both parts of Everytown for Gun Safety, tonight released the following statement after the leaders of both the Wisconsin Assembly and the Wisconsin Senate ended special sessions on gun violence shortly after gaveling them in.

“This was a huge missed opportunity,” said Heather Driscoll, a volunteer with Wisconsin Moms Demand Action whose father died by firearm suicide. “These are reasonable, responsible policies supported by the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites, both Democrats and Republicans. Rather than open conversations about how to improve public safety, the leaders of the Wisconsin Senate and Assembly shut them down for purely political purposes.”

“The public supports these life-saving policies,” said Jack Larsen, a student leader with Students Demand Action at the University of Wisconsin. “The leaders of the Senate and Assembly slammed the door on everyone in my generation who has been terrorized by gun violence. If our leaders won’t act, we will elect ones who will.”

The special session in the Wisconsin legislature comes just months after a special session in Virginia earlier this year when the Republican-controlled General Assembly failed to take action during its special session in the wake of the deadly Virginia Beach shooting, ending it after just 90 minutes without any votes on broadly popular measures like background checks on all gun sales or red flag legislation. On Tuesday, voters in Virginia sent a clear message to the lawmakers who sided with the gun lobby over gun safety by flipping the Senate and General Assembly to a gun sense majority — in the NRA’s backyard.

Gov. Evers had called on lawmakers to convene a special session to debate two gun safety policies:

  • Requiring background checks on all gun sales
  • Enacting a Red Flag law, which would allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court for an order temporarily restricting a persons’s access to firearms when there is evidence they pose a threat to self or others

Wisconsin polling has shown that four in five voters support background checks and extreme risk laws.

GUN VIOLENCE IN WISCONSIN

Nearly 600 Wisconsinites are killed by guns each year. Over two-thirds of those deaths are by gun suicide — an average of over one per day. Almost three-quarters of all homicides in the state involve a gun. And the problem is getting worse: over the past decade, the gun death rate in Wisconsin has increased by 36%, a higher increase than in neighboring Michigan and Minnesota. 

BACKGROUND CHECKS

recent report showed that in 2018 alone, there were as many as 46,560 ads on Armslist.com offering guns for sale in Wisconsin with no background check required.

Under current federal law, background checks are required only for gun sales by licensed firearm dealers. No background check is required for sales by unlicensed individuals, who can sell guns to strangers they meet online or at gun shows – with no background check, no questions asked, and no way to know whether the buyer is a criminal or otherwise prohibited from having guns. 15 states and the District of Columbia have closed this loophole by enacting laws requiring background checks on all gun sales. Wisconsin has not.

RED FLAG OR EXTREME RISK LAWS

Twelve states have enacted Red Flag laws since last year’s mass shooting in Parkland, Fla., and five of these new laws have been signed by Republican governors. In addition to the District of Columbia, 17 states have now enacted Red Flag laws, including Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, and Florida.

Red Flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk laws, permit immediate family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court for an order, often known as an extreme risk protection order, temporarily removing guns from dangerous situations. If a court finds that a person poses a serious risk of injuring themselves or others with a firearm, that person is temporarily prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns, and any guns they already own are held by law enforcement or another authorized party while the order is in effect.

Perpetrators of mass shootings and school shootings often display warning signs before committing violent acts. Interventions in states with Red Flag laws have already prevented these potential tragedies. Research has also documented the impact Red Flag laws can have preventing suicides.