MADISON, Wis. — Democrats are renewing their push for gun reform, but this time the effort has more to do with the pandemic than politics.
From the steps of the state Capitol, Democrats called for two things again: universal background checks and extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws.
Lawmakers said those gun safety proposals aren't conservative or liberal. Rather, the proposals are in the interest of all Wisconsinites.
Lindsey Buscher started pushing for gun safety measures after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“I didn't want to be that mom who lost her kid to gun violence,” Buscher said.
The Madison mom of a four-year-old and a second-grader is now part of the group called Moms Demand Action and said passing the two proposals would make a big difference in her life.
“I'd feel safer just going to the park,” Buscher said. “Several weeks ago a man was just shot in the park here in Madison. There [are] so many places that so many people don't feel safe going, and it shouldn't be like that.”
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul said those proposals that would make Buscher feel safer are more important to pass now than two years ago when lawmakers last tried to.
“We have seen an increase in substance abuse disorder as a result of the pandemic,” Kaul said. “We've seen an increase in people struggling with mental health challenges. We have seen people isolated for others and unable to access services that can help make a difference in people's lives, and we have also seen an increase in shootings.”
The ideas aren't new, and Democrats said neither is the support for them. Polls from Marquette Law School in 2018 and 2019 found nearly 80% of Wisconsinites support expanding background checks, including a majority of gun owners.
“We have to keep the conversation going because it's past time,” Buscher said of the data.
State Rep. Deb Andraca (D-Whitefish Bay) said 19 other states have extreme risk protection order laws, and passing similar legislation could save lives in Wisconsin.
“This is not a gun grab,” State Rep. Andraca said. “This is a bill that respects our Second Amendment rights with provisions, such as criminal penalties for those who bring false charges. Only a judge can issue an order based on clear and convincing evidence of a threat. The order is temporary, can be challenged or terminated with full due process.”
So far, Republicans have ignored calls to pass such legislation by not taking any action on a special session called by Gov. Tony Evers in 2019, and by removing the items from his state budget proposal last year.