MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic lawmakers on Thursday proposed an expansion of background checks for gun sales in the state and called on Republicans who control the Legislature to pass the measure, even though GOP leaders have said they don’t support such a move.
“It’s time to stop waiting for permission from the NRA,” said Evers, a Democrat, at a news conference to announce the bill. “Enough is enough, folks. This is a moderate proposal, folks. It’s time to be bipartisan and it’s time to lead.”
Evers’ proposal require background checks for handgun purchases with numerous exceptions. Sales to a firearm dealer, a law enforcement officer or member of the armed services, firearms classified as antiques or a gift or inheritance to a family member would not be covered.
Even with the exemptions, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul said the bill would crack down on sales of guns online, at auctions and gun shows, which are not covered by federal law that requires background checks only on guns sold through licensed firearm dealers.
Democrats pointed to a 2018 Marquette University Law School poll showing that more than 80% of respondents support a universal background check.
“This is not a controversial issue anywhere other than in this Capitol building,” said Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent, of Madison, who is sponsoring the bill along with Sen. LaTonya Johnson, of Milwaukee.
Republicans have repeatedly said they have no interest in it.
Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, hours before the bill was released, said in an interview on WISN-AM that a background check bill and a “red flag” proposal are ineffective and “very unlikely” to be taken up by the Legislature. Red flag laws establish a process to take firearms away from people determined to be a threat to themselves or others.
Vos said the proposals won’t get at the real issues, which he said are tied to mental health and dealing with suicidal people.
“There are things we can certainly work together on that would deal with the problem that’s real and not just the one that’s the political answer,” Vos said. “There should be commonsense middle ground.”
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald this week also said he opposes a universal background check bill. He said it would violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment.
Evers called on every Republican to take a stand on his proposal, which he called a “reasonable and moderate step” to increase safety. He was joined by 16 Democratic lawmakers, Kaul, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke.
“This is an issue that should transcend political parties,” Evers said.
Vos and Fitzgerald did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.