Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let’s say “no” to concealed carry on school grounds

Governor Scott Walker offers no opinion on the issue ahead of the State of the State address

State Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) and State Rep. Robert Brooks (R-Saukville) have introduced legislation that would allow concealed carry license holders the right to carry weapons on school grounds throughout Wisconsin.

But before we examine that proposal let’s take a quick glance at how well concealed carry, up to this point, has worked in general for the state so far.

In 2011, when Walker signed the concealed carry bill passed by the state legislature into law, he did so with great fanfare. Specifically, he included a very notable promise: that the state would be safer for it.

“By signing concealed carry into law today we are making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens,” Walker said back then.

And how has the state fared? Not as well as Walker suggested it would. Wisconsin has seen a drastic increase in violent crime since the governor signed the bill into law.

According to FBI statistics the violent crime rate in the state has sprung up by more than 22 percent from 2011 to 2014. And the murder rate has similarly gone up, by more than 20 percent.

For comparison, the U.S. violent crime rate went down almost three percent from 2011-2014, and the murder rate went down 4.25 percent nationally.

Some, like Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) have suggested that the problem is purely the result of the state’s main urban areas, singling out Milwaukee for its spike in crime and apparently attempting to make the issue more about race than guns.

“A large number of these crimes [occur] in mainly black neighborhoods,” Gannon wrote in a press release last month.

But Gannon ignores much of the evidence that suggests crime is rising everywhere, not just in Milwaukee. Even in non-metropolitan counties throughout the state, the crime rate is going up.

In those counties, the violent crime rate increased by 11.6 percent during the same time period. So it’s not just a Milwaukee problem, as Rep. Gannon and other conservatives have suggested.

In all likelihood, concealed carry probably didn’t have anything to do with the increase in crime levels seen in Wisconsin. But remember, Gov. Walker and other Republicans in the state promised that its passage would make the state safer. Many still cling onto the errant belief that the concealed carry law acts as a deterrent.

Here’s Rep. Bob Gannon again, stating that the law would work to stop criminals (emphasis in bold mine): “A gang banger in the mall with a gun is going to think twice if there could be a law abiding CCW holder standing behind them fully prepared to shoot center mass...”

Yet that hasn’t been the case. Concealed carry hasn’t made our state safer, and it won’t make our schools safer either.

We shouldn’t rely on the belief that a consistently armed citizenry can somehow create a safer society. People have a right to protect themselves, but the evidence shows that concealed carry as a safety policy hasn’t worked. The law simply doesn’t act as a deterrent, in theory nor in practice.

There’s an added problem when we discuss allowing concealed carry on school grounds. Allowing people to carry weapons near schools will simply create confusion for administrators, even in a drop-off/pick-up area, making their jobs even more difficult than they already are.

For his own part, Gov. Scott Walker refused to share his own opinion on the bill, citing Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’s statements as his reason why he’s silent on the issue:
“The speaker said they’re not taking it up and so my focus is really going to be, from the State of the State on, the things we can get passed in this legislative session,” he said. “For us, our priority is really going to be on workforce, worker training and career development issues.”
That’s a cop-out if I’ve ever seen one. The bill is a bad idea, and Walker should recognize it as such.

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