Monday, April 27, 2015

Here's a thought: Let's examine evidence before deregulating gun laws

Reasonable debate and examination of statistics relating to violence missing from debate over ending 48-hour waiting period

For a follow-up on this article, please click here.

Gov. Scott Walker will likely sign a proposed bill into law that would remove a 48-hour “cooling off” period for gun purchases across the state.

Current law on weapons purchases requires all gun sales to have a two-day waiting period. The bill, if signed by Walker, would eliminate that requirement.

It’s unclear who asked for this bill to be introduced in the first place. Its need is questionable as well -- no undue burden is placed on gun owners by requiring a waiting period, a fact you’d hear many of them admit to if asked.

Nevertheless, this bill’s passage into law is considered to be an inevitability, the latest in a line of laws passed by Republicans in the state legislature and signed by Walker dealing with the deregulation of gun ownership.

That’s troubling, and recent statistics demonstrate why. We can look to the concealed carry law as an example. Despite the governor claiming that it would make the state “safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens,” the rate of crime has actually increased since the time that concealed carry was passed, according to the FBI.

In 2011, the last year that concealed carry wasn’t implemented, the violent crime rate in Wisconsin was about 236.9 per 100,000 citizens. In 2013 that number was up to 277.9 per 100,000, a rate increase of 17 percent.

The number of murders committed through guns in the state have also seen dramatic increases. In 2011 there were 80 murders across the state that were carried out through the use of a gun. In 2014 an estimated 111 murders in Wisconsin involved a gun, an increase in gun-related murders of more than 38 percent.

These statistics should give us reason to worry. We can’t definitively say concealed carry was responsible for these sudden rises in crime, but we can see that it failed to fulfill Gov. Walker’s promise of making Wisconsin a safer place.

I worry that the removal of the 48-hour waiting period may have the same effect. A few years from now we might wonder whether allowing instant access to guns may have been a mistake.

It’s clear that any deregulation of gun laws needs careful thought and consideration by state lawmakers. We’re not getting that from our current class of Republican legislators, much less from Gov. Scott Walker.

We haven’t taken enough time to study the effects of removing the current law. For that, we might consider looking to South Dakota, which in 2009 removed its own waiting period for gun purchases. Statistics from that time to now should give lawmakers in our state ample reason to hesitate, to give similar legislation before them more thought before so carelessly endorsing it.

The rate of violent crime in South Dakota before they ended their waiting period for gun purchases was around 185.6 per 100,000. In 2013, four years after they removed the waiting period, that rate jumped up by more than 70 percent, to a rate of 316.5 incidents of violent crime per 100,000.

Again, we can’t say for sure that the removal of the waiting period was responsible for this rise in crime. But it shows once more that things didn’t get safer because of it.

Republican legislators have done the people of Wisconsin a disservice by fast-tracking this bill to Gov. Walker’s desk. Instead of passing laws based on careful thought and constituents’ concerns, they have ruled based on special interest lobbying and campaign donations.

Gov. Walker has an opportunity before him to make the right decision. Should it reach his desk, he should veto this bill, and ask for more consideration from the legislature before they pass anything similar onto him.

The question is, can we count on Walker to do the right thing? Or will he once more put his higher ambitions above the concerns of Wisconsin citizens? Only time will tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment