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Wisconsin's 130-Year-Old Ban on Carry-Conceal Gets Court Change
By Joanne M. Haas
CNSNews.com Correspondent
July 21, 2003

Madison, Wisconsin (CNSNews.com) - A state Supreme Court decision allowing home owners and business owners to carry concealed weapons on their property has re-ignited a movement to relax Wisconsin's 130-year-old ban on carrying concealed weapons.

"Basically, the Supreme Court has stated that with Wisconsin's Right to Keep and Bear Arms constitutional amendment, the Legislature should look at creating a permitting system for individuals to carry a concealed weapon," Rep. Scott Gunderson, a Republican representing communities in the state's southeastern corner.

"We feel the time has come for the Legislature to pass the Personal Protection Act, especially in light of the Supreme Court's decision in the Hamdan case," Gunderson said.

The court on July 15 ruled in a 6-1 decision to overturn the conviction of a Milwaukee grocer, Munir Hamdan, who was found guilty of carrying a concealed weapon in his store following several robberies in 1999.

Five years ago, Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional amendment granting citizens the right to keep and bear arms for the purposes of hunting, recreation, security, defense and all other lawful reasons.

"We are codifying what the Supreme Court has said and creating a permit system that allows the law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons outside their home or business," Gunderson said of the measure targeted to go through statewide public hearings before going before the Assembly and Senate in September or October.

The bill allows citizens to become licensed to carry concealed weapons after undergoing criminal background checks and completing safety training.

Mostly Republicans, with several Democrats, last session passed a similar bill in the Republican-controlled Assembly. The bill then stalled in the Senate, controlled by Democrats last session but now in the hands of a majority of Republicans.

However, the governor's office, which was controlled by Republicans for 16 years, is now in the hands of Democrats. Gov. Jim Doyle has long supported the 130-year-old ban on carrying concealed weapons.

Dan Leistikow, a spokesman for Gov. Jim Doyle, said the governor respects the court decision but also stands by the state's carry and conceal ban. "(The governor) does not believe there should be wholesale changes" to the ban, which dates back to the 1870s, Leistikow said.

Rep. Dave Travis, a Democrat from the Madison area, predicted the bill would pass the Legislature with bipartisan support, but he cautioned it would need to be finely crafted.

Travis told the Associated Press that the measure would have to contain safeguards making sure such concealed weapons do not make their way into taverns and other establishments where alcohol could play a factor.

The bill also details places where people could not carry a concealed weapon - taverns, airports and other buildings already under weapon regulations.

Gunderson said that to date, the bill had 35 Assembly sponsors, including Democrats Gary Sherman and Marlin Schneider, and 14 in the Senate. However, Gunderson said: "We don't know where we'd be at (sic) on veto override status."

Under the measure, applicants for the carry and conceal permit must be 21 years of age or older and would apply at a county sheriff's office, not necessarily the one of residency in the event the sheriff opts not to participate in the program.

The sheriff would perform the background check and determine if the applicant qualifies. Part of the total fee of $113 would be to help reimburse the sheriff departments for their time and service in the permitting process.

Gunderson said the background checks for past criminal behaviors and conditions for permitting is "the same check the Brady Law provides." Licenses to carry concealed weapons could be suspended or revoked if the person is charged with or convicted of a crime.

"We have followed the example of states like Florida, where their concealed weapons law has been very successful because of quality training and education," Gunderson said, adding 44 states have some type of carry-conceal law.
 
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