Concealed carry permit holders would be able to have their weapons with them on public college and university campuses in Wisconsin, under a bill being proposed by Republican lawmakers.
Under current law, concealed weapons can be carried in university common areas by individuals with the proper license. However, each campus can make the decision to ban them from classrooms, university facilities, and dorms. The legislation, co-sponsored by Republican state Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) and Rep. Devin LeMahieu (R-Ootsburg) would lift restrictions on those locations.
The introduction of the proposal comes just weeks after a deadly mass shooting on an Oregon college campus, where a gunman killed nine people. However, Kremer said it’s not a direct response to the incident. The Kewaskum Republican said he’s been working on the legislation for months, due to concerns about a general rise in violent crime on and around campuses. “What we’re looking at here is some real prevention for violent crime around campuses, while at the same time looking at personal protection for some of these students who have a desire to protect themselves,” he said. “I don’t think we should be treating our college students as lesser citizens – not allowing them to carry like the rest of the law-abiding public.”
University of Wisconsin System officials were less than enthusiastic about the proposal. In a joint release, System President Ray Cross and chancellors said they have “significant concerns and questions with this proposal and cannot currently support it.”
The UW-Madison Police Department urged lawmakers not to consider changing current law. The agency noted in a statement that “the evidence does not support the idea that our campus would be safer if concealed firearms are allowed in our buildings. In states that allow concealed carry, these mass shooting tragedies have still occurred.”
The agency went on to add its concern that “allowing concealed weapons inside a building like Camp Randall Stadium, filled with 80,000 people, creates a major security issue. The training required to obtain a concealed carry permit is minimal.”
Asked about the bill during a stop in Madison Tuesday, Governor Scott Walker largely deflected questions about whether or not he would sign the bill if it clears the Legislature. “Certainly we’ll look at the legislation,” Walker said, but noted that “to me, the real threat are not law-abiding citizens…it’s people who are possessing firearms illegally and people who have fallen through the cracks when it comes to social services.”
The proposal is currently being circulated for co-sponsors at the Capitol.
Affiliate WHBY contributed to this report.