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Fitzgerald says Senate won’t hold hearings, debate gun bills

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Republican leader of the Wisconsin state Senate said Tuesday he plans to convene and then immediately adjourn a special session Democratic Gov. Tony Evers called on a pair of gun control measures, without debating or voting on the proposals.

Scott Fitzgerald, speaking to reporters in the Capitol, said there was no point in debating or holding hearings on the universal background check and “red flag” bills because Republicans who hold a 19-14 majority aren’t interested in passing them.

“The support’s not there to tackle these two issues,” Fitzgerald said.

Evers on Monday called the special session, which forces the Legislature to at least formally meet to consider the bills. However, the Legislature is not required to take any action and the Republican leaders made clear Tuesday that they had no intention of voting on the bills.

Under the red flag bill, a judge could seize people’s firearms for up to a year if they pose a threat to themselves or others. Seventeen states have passed similar laws.

Under the universal background check bill, the Wisconsin Department of Justice would conduct the checks on purchases made at gun shows, online, auctions and other sales that aren’t covered by the federal law requiring background checks on guns sold through federally licensed dealers. Twenty-one states have similar laws.

Evers and Democrats point to Marquette University Law School polls showing 80% support for the ideas as reason to vote on them. Evers has called on the Legislature to take an up or down vote on the measures so voters know where lawmakers stand.

“It is unacceptable for Republicans in the Legislature to refuse to do their job,” said Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. “How many more sons, daughters, mothers and fathers need to be lost to senseless gun violence before this Legislature will act?”

Fitzgerald said Evers was “playing politics” with the issue.

Vos and Fitzgerald have said Republicans are concerned that the bills would infringe on Second Amendment rights. Fitzgerald said Tuesday that he was concerned that universal background checks could lead to federal law enforcement officers “trying to figure out how many guns somebody did have if they were rejected based on a background check.”

Fitzgerald was asked if a public hearing could flesh out concerns he had with the bills. While he said there could be some “back and forth” during a public hearing, it wouldn’t be necessary to hold one for that to happen.

Fitzgerald also said he was “unaware” of any other alternative bills in the Legislature that Republicans may take up to combat gun violence.

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