Wisconsin Governor Shoots Down Concealed Carry Bill

By Joanne M. Haas | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

Madison, Wisc. (CNSNews.com) - Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle Tuesday vetoed a bill repealing Wisconsin's ban on concealed weapons, calling the measure flawed, unworkable and potentially dangerous for children.

Wisconsin is one of five states without a law allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. The state's ban on concealed weapons dates back to 1870.

"Wisconsin is one of the safest states in the country and boasts one of the lowest crime rates nationwide... We have maintained this low crime rate at the same time we have banned the carrying of concealed weapons," the first-term governor said in his veto message to the Republican-controlled Legislature. "The bill itself has serious flaws and is unworkable."

Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer, a Republican from a suburban Milwaukee district, disagreed. She called the bill "carefully crafted" and "meant to provide a measure of personal protection and safety for law-abiding citizens who complete the requirements, including handgun training and a criminal background check."

Assembly Speaker John Gard, a Republican from east-central Wisconsin, was in Washington D.C. Tuesday, but his spokesman Steve Baas said Doyle's action was expected. "He's a typical Madison liberal," Baas said of Doyle.

The Legislature has not yet decided whether to attempt a veto override, but supporters of the measure already were calling for such an attempt long before Doyle's veto.

It would take a two-thirds majority in both chambers to overturn the veto. The 33-member Senate passed the measure with a 24-8 vote and the 99-member Assembly approved the bill with a 64-35 vote - meeting the two-thirds requirement.

"It's unfortunate that the governor disregarded the vote of 24 senators of both parties and with over a two-thirds majority voting in favor of the bill, I would assume an override would be inevitable," Panzer said. "I think for a senator to change his or her position now and vote to sustain the governor's veto on this issue would be political suicide."

'Highly unworkable'

Still, the governor had his supporters, and ironically, many of them were armed.

Surrounded by representatives of numerous law enforcement organizations, the governor unveiled his veto message at the Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center in a town just north of Madison.

Doyle said the concealed carry bill "compromises the safety of our children by lowering penalties for carrying handguns and other dangerous weapons in a school zone or on school grounds."

Other problems cited by Doyle included a "highly unworkable" requirement for businesses wishing to ban concealed weapons. They would have to post signs and issue verbal and personal warnings.

Doyle labeled the bill's training for permit-seekers as "insufficient" and its cost as an unnecessary financial burden upon already strained police departments and county budgets.

At least 65 of the state's 62 sheriffs have announced their intention to "opt out" of the requirements of the vetoed bill, thereby making the law "totally unworkable." Gun owners who want concealed carry permits would have to travel to one of only seven participating counties for the required background checks and permit processing.

"The bill does not provide adequate resources to the state and local government that would be required to process the permits," Doyle said. "The proposed funding is insufficient to cover most of the anticipated costs, estimated by the state Department of Justice to be $3.7 million for local governments and $1.18 million for the state in the first year alone."

Wisconsin is attempting to dig its way out of a $3.2-billion budget deficit in the current biennium, and it faces an anticipated $1 billion shortfall in the next biennium, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau.

"In a time a budget deficits, position cuts and increasing property tax pressures, it is irresponsible to add these new burdens on local law enforcement agencies," Doyle said.

Mark O'Connell, executive director of the Wisconsin Counties Association, said from a "purely financial perspective, there would have been a tremendous burden placed on county sheriff's departments to issue permits and do the necessary background checks."

The Wisconsin Troopers Association also supported the veto. It said it was concerned that the names of people who received concealed carry permits would be kept confidential.

Denny Kruger, the troopers' legislative liaison, said he was troubled by that information on concealed carry registrants would be kept secret, "even from law enforcement officers."

Added Casey Perry, executive director of the WTA: "A traffic stop naturally creates an increased stress level for both the officer and the citizen. Concealed weapons will only add to the tension of the situation."

Under the measure, applicants for the concealed carry permit must be 21 or older and would apply at any county sheriff's office. The sheriff would perform the background check and determine if the applicant qualifies. Part of the total $113 fee would help reimburse the sheriff departments for their time and service in the permitting process.

The governor's veto was heralded by the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, which said social workers often deal with citizens in volatile personal relationships. It opposes the idea of adding guns to the mix.

In his veto message, the governor mentioned a state Supreme Court decision that re-ignited the concealed carry issue. "This veto does not result in an absolute ban on the carrying of concealed weapons in one's home or private business, nor does this action eliminate any rights of Wisconsin citizens," Doyle noted.

"The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently held... that while the carrying of a concealed weapon in one's home or privately-owned businesses is constitutional, the current law prohibiting the carrying of concealed weapons in other places is reasonable."

Quoting the case, Doyle said: "... Wisconsin's prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons is, as a general matter, a reasonable exercise of the police power...and serves many valuable purposes in promoting public safety."

On July 15, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled 6-1 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 okayed 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.

Override urged/b.

A gun rights group called Gov. Doyle's veto of the concealed carry bill "an act of political demagoguery that should be answered with a legislative override."

The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms (CCRKBA), in a press release, said, "Gov. Doyle's veto is an insult to every law-abiding Wisconsin gun owner who believes in the right of self-defense."

According to CCRKBA Executive Director Joe Waldron. "At a time when Democrats nationwide are laboring to present themselves and their party as more friendly to firearms civil rights, along comes Jim Doyle to strip away the fagade and demonstrate once again that the Democrat philosophy is still one locked in paranoia about guns and mistrust for gun owners."

CCRKBA is urging Wisconsin lawmakers to return to the capitol Dec. 1 to override the governor's veto. In the meantime, Waldron predicted that gun owners will organize at the grassroots level to tell lawmakers to support their right of self-defense.