Larson Report 
NEWSLETTER

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 A Capitol Update from State Senator Chris Larson

Dear Wisconsin Neighbor,

Like many, I am devastated by the gun deaths sweeping our country. How much more do we have to endure before leaders will act to protect the innocent? Although we are out of session, I wanted to give you a brief history of what's been happening in Wisconsin on our gun laws and, more importantly, what laws we could pass if politicians were willing to step up to make our communities a safer place.

In addition to the appalling mass murders in El Paso and Ohio, there was also a spike in shootings just south of us in Chicago, with some of those guns likely purchased right here in Wisconsin, where our gun laws aren’t as thoughtful. This last weekend, 55 people were injured in gun incidents and one emergency room was so overwhelmed it had to temporarily close its doors.  

As we discuss some of the solutions being put forward, I think it’s worth tackling some of the red herrings you may have heard from those seeking to explain away taking meaningful action.

There is no strong correlation for people with mental health issues using violence against others. In fact, research shows that they are ten times more likely to have violence perpetrated on them.

Also, video games are not a cause of gun violence. Studies show this. Fun fact: other countries have violent video games but don’t have anywhere near the number of gun deaths we do.

It can no longer be politically expedient to do the bidding of those who are only seeking to sell more guns while the majority of the population is demanding our elected leaders to do the bare minimum of their jobs: enact laws to keep us safe. We, as a community, not only deserve this, we should expect it.

We must put pressure on state and national leaders until we pass meaningful gun reform. Until then, please talk to your friends and neighbors, show up at vigils, and do all you can to be heard.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this issue, so please reach out.

In Service, 

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How We Got Here: Wisconsin's GOP Dismantling of Gun laws - A History 
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It is important to remember that Wisconsin didn't always have some of the laxest gun laws in the country, that our GOP legislators weren't always allowed to secretly cater to the NRA, and that we once had a saner, more balanced approach to guns. That all changed in 2011 when Republican legislators seized majorities in The Senate, The Assembly, and Governor Scott Walker was elected. After that, it was open season for the NRA in Wisconsin and GOP legislators bent over backward to give them what they wanted; and boy, did the NRA want a lot.

Concealed Carry 

This was clearly one of the early priorities for Republican legislators. In fact, after the dust had settled from the Act 10 labor protests, Republican legislators almost immediately went to work on this legislation (WI Act 35) and it was signed into law on July 11, 2011.

At the time of passage, law enforcement officials such as Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn were actively reaching out to the legislature with their concerns that the concealed carry bill was inadequate.

For example, according to the new concealed carry law, a person who passed hunters safety at the age of twelve is eligible for a concealed carry permit without any additional proof of training. Just so we are clear, a hunter's safety course does not typically include handgun training.

We can argue the general merits or lack thereof for concealed carry as a policy but you'd think to require some base-level training would be a given.

It is because of Wisconsin's lax concealed carry law that these signs are now a very common sight:

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So-called Castle Doctrine 

That very same year (2011) GOP legislators also passed what they refer to as the "Castle Doctrine." 

In Wisconsin, the law on self-defense generally states you may employ lethal force to defend yourself or another if you or they are in reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm. Castle Doctrine changed the rules of retreat and when one can use deadly force in their dwelling, workplace, property, or motor vehicle; regardless if the intruder is posing a threat to life or not. 

What that means is that an unarmed intruder, committing a crime against property, can be shot without fear of prosecution. Even if the homeowner has ample time to leave and phone police.

In fact, one of the first times the new Castle Doctrine law was used as a defense was when a homeowner shot and killed an unarmed 20-year old who was hiding on the homeowner's porch after fleeing a nearby underage drinking party.

The major problem with vague and loose Castle Doctrine laws is that they foster an environment and culture that promotes going for the gun first. 

Removing The 48-Hour Waiting Period

In 2015 (in yet another example of caving to the NRA), Legislative Republicans took the irresponsible step of repealing the 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases that Wisconsin had had on its books since 1976.

Cooling off periods, like we used to have for handgun purchases, give people life-saving time to have a second thought about taking permanent action. Multiple studies have found a link between states with waiting periods and a reduction in suicides. When Politifact looked into the claims, they rated it as "Mostly True."   

There is no reason why a person should not have to wait 48-hours to take possession of a handgun. It allows for ample time to run all the appropriate background checks, serves as a valuable cooling-off period, and has been shown to save lives. Republicans were highly irresponsible when they changed this law.  

 Pursuing a Responsible and Reasonable Gun Agenda  
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Empty Shoes at Gun Reform Protest at the Capitol 

Now that the weather has warmed up, it's worth remembering that gun violence spikes in the summer months.  This is on top of the mass shootings that have garnered the nation's attention.   

What we can take from this is that due to lax gun laws there is greater access to firearms, which leads to spikes in gun violence when our colder cities warm up and there are more people outside. There are more chances for violence to break out on hot days, especially when employment opportunities and summer programs for high-risk youth are not readily available.

We know the facts. We know that every day 100 Americans are killed by guns, we know that guns are the second leading cause of death for children and teens, and we know that access to a gun increases the risk of suicide by three times. We also know there is more that we can be doing to stop this trend here at home.

This session, I am proud to co-sponsor and fight for sensible gun reform in Wisconsin. So far the bills that have been circulated for sponsorship are:

Assembly Bill 269: This bill would prohibit the State of Wisconsin Investment Board from making investments in firearms companies. It just doesn't seem right for the State of Wisconsin Investment Board to invest in firearm companies, when firearm companies are actively lobbying against further regulation. As long as the NRA, on behalf of gun manufacturers, fills the campaign coffers of politicians advocating for the dangerous deregulation of guns, state funds should not go to gun manufacturers.  

Senate Bill 312: This bill reinstates the 48 hour waiting period for purchase of handguns. As we discussed above, the 48 hour waiting period has a direct effect on reducing suicides in the states that have such cooling-off periods. We can not continue to ignore the evidence and allow the NRA to dictate our gun laws in Wisconsin. If we reinstate the 48 hour waiting period, we save lives, it is just that simple. From 1976 to 2015 we had this waiting period and it did not hinder people's ability to obtain a handgun, it simply gave the people that needed it an opportunity to cool off.

Senate Bill 311: This bill would prohibit the possession of a firearm by a person who has recently committed a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. As we know, violence tends to escalate and I see no reason why a person who has committed a domestic violence misdemeanor should continue to be able to possess a firearm.

Women who are abused by their partners are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a firearm. We should be doing everything we can to make sure individuals who have exhibited violent behavior do not have access to guns.

Of course, I am still considering other legislation aimed at tackling the epidemic of gun violence. For instance, we should be doing more about bump-stocks, assault-style rifles, and high capacity magazines. Something as simple as a gunman having to pause and reload can give victims an opportunity to flee or intervene. We should also finally close the "gun show loophole" by requiring universal background checks on all gun purchases.

I am also interested in what you think. CLICK HERE and let me know what you think we should be doing to address guns in Wisconsin.         

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If you want to see Wisconsin return to sanity and pass reasonable gun laws, I urge you to contact your state elected officials and let them know.

Tell them that you want universal background checks, the 48-hour waiting period restored, and guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. We can do more. We must do more. It is time to show the NRA that despite their best efforts we can stop the proliferation of dangerous weapons in Wisconsin.   

You can take action today. Call the legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472 and ask for your state representatives, tell them to take action on gun violence. Click Here to find out who represents you in Wisconsin.

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The Larson Report strives to provide up-to-date, in-depth information to you. Between editions, a lot happens in Madison and around the country. I want to make sure you know the most pressing issues facing our neighbors and friends across the nation. Below are some of the top stories from the past couple of weeks. 

The news this week was dominated by the horrific gun violence in El Paso and Dayton. 

There is no excuse for not doing even the barest of minimums to help stem the tide of violence and save the lives of innocent friends and neighbors. At the very least, we can ensure that no gun is sold or transferred without a background check, including at a gun show or between private citizens.

To continue to do nothing as families are torn apart, people are dying, and these horrific incidents are becoming more frequent and deadly is immoral.

The issue is the ease of access that people have to weapons that are solely designed to kill as many people in as short a time as possible. No one needs a semi-automatic assault rifle. No one needs extended clips. And we do not need to suffer trauma and tragedy with this kind of shocking regularity. It is time for legislators to renounce their ties to the NRA, put the lives of their neighbors before the interests of gun manufacturers, and pass gun reform measures now.


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