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Josh Kaul, Democrats introduce universal background checks, red-flag bills to address gun violence

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Gun safety presser

Democrats gather outside the state Capitol to introduce gun control legislation on Thursday, Sept. 23.

Attorney General Josh Kaul and legislative Democrats on Thursday renewed calls for universal background checks for gun sales and so-called red-flag laws to address gun violence.

While federal law requires federally licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks on anyone who purchases a firearm from them, private party transactions aren’t covered by the law.

After another mass shooting in the US, the president calls on Congress to ban military-style ‘assault’ weapons.

The universal background check bill would address that gap in the law by requiring the state to conduct background checks on all gun sales in Wisconsin to limit illegal sales and transfers, with the exception of sales or transfers to firearms dealers, law enforcement and members of the armed services. The legislation would also create an exception for the sale or transfer of antique firearms or transfers that are a gift or inheritance to a family member.

“The idea that we can’t both constitutionally protect gun rights and also feel safe from gun violence in our communities is false,” said Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, a lead author of the legislation.

Wisconsin currently does not require private sellers to conduct a background check when transferring a firearm. Gun dealers must contact the Wisconsin Department of Justice to conduct a background check to sell a handgun, and the FBI to sell a long gun.

The gun legislation is unlikely to get Republican support. A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Vos has concerns that red-flag legislation would pose a threat to due process and Second Amendment rights.

“Wisconsin laws already say if you’re a felon, you lose your right to own a gun,” Vos spokesperson Angela Joyce said in a statement. “With Democrats yet again considering confiscating firearms from law-abiding citizens, it shows just how determined Democrats are to take away guns.”

Another bill that Democrats are renewing is one that would implement so-called red-flag laws, which permit police or family members to petition state courts to order the temporary removal of firearms from people who present a danger to others or themselves.

The bill would create an extreme risk protection order, similar to existing temporary restraining orders for domestic abuse, that would allow a family member or law enforcement officer to petition a court to temporarily prevent the person from possessing a firearm if that person is likely to injure themselves or others.

Under the bill, a court could issue a restraining order for up to a year, which could be extended if a judge believes the person continues to pose a threat.

The proposed legislation is similar to existing state law that subjects domestic or child abusers to firearm surrender. People who falsely accuse someone of being a danger to themselves or others are subject to a felony charge.

“When we think someone may be a danger to themselves, to others, this bill that I’ve authored with my colleagues is an option,” said Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, a lead author of the bill. “No, this bill won’t end all gun violence, but it does have the ability to save lives.”

The lead authors of the two pieces of legislation are Taylor and Johnson, and Reps. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, and Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison.

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