Felons aren’t supposed to have firearms – but there’s nothing to prevent them from buying a hunting license. State Representative Jeff Smith (D-Eau Claire) lost a friend in 2006. The man was killed by a member of his own deer hunting party who, as a convicted felon, was not allowed to have a gun. “The hunting party members were not aware that he had a felony, and should not have been carrying a firearm,” Smith said. “The family has asked to resolve that conflict between selling a firearm license versus that fact that a person is not supposed to be carrying a firearm.” Smith said legislation he’s proposing will provide penalties for felons who hunt illegally, and give the Department of Natural Resources more resources to locate individuals who are breaking the law.
Smith’s bill would also create three new licenses to allow felons to hunt with bow and arrow or airguns. Bob Welch, representing the Hunters’ Rights Coalition, said that’s needlessly complex. “We don’t really see the underlying problem,” Welch said. “We just believe that the violation of law that you as policy makers should be concerned with is a felon having a gun. The fact that they’re using it to shoot a deer doesn’t seem to be the problem to us. The fact that they have it at all is the problem, and that’s already against the law.”
Tom Van Heron with the Wisconsin DNR said wardens routinely find people hunting with guns that they’re legally restricted from having. “In almost all those casesm, they weren’t just possessing a firearm illegally, they were hunting illegally or being unsafe in how they were handling the firearm,” saud Veron, noting that the legislation would require the DNR to notify convicted felons at the time of license purchase that they are prohbited from possessing a gun. Van Heron said the agency supports the bill (AB 737).
Bob Hague reports (:55 MP3) AUDIO: Bob Hague reports (:55 MP3)