Republicans shoot down changes to concealed-carry law
By CARA LOMBARDO
Mar. 08, 2017
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Madison Mayor Paul Soglin is firing blanks if he thinks he can persuade the Legislature to give him and other city leaders the authority to prohibit guns on buses, Republican lawmakers told The Associated Press.
The state Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down Madison's policy banning guns on city buses. Gun rights groups cheered the decision. But not Soglin.
The mayor said at a news conference hours after the ruling that he'll ask the Legislature to change the state's concealed-carry law to allow cities to ban weapons on buses. But the gun-friendly Republicans who hold record majorities in the Legislature immediately shot down the idea.
"I don't think that's going to fly," said Rep. Jeffrey Mursau, one of the Republican legislators who authored the 2011 law that made it legal to carry concealed firearms in most public places, including the state Capitol building.
While the concealed-carry law makes exceptions for private property owners, "the bus is a different situation," Mursau said. "There are a lot of things that happen on buses and subways."
The court sided with Wisconsin Carry, a gun rights group, ruling that Madison Metro Transit's policy is invalid because it is more stringent than the state's concealed-carry law.
Wisconsin Carry President Nik Clark has said the group could use the ruling to challenge other public transit systems and outdoor areas in the state.
Soglin argued that the city controls other behaviors on city buses, such as whether or not people can play loud music or travel with dangerous animals.
"We see it to be perfectly within our rights as property owners to be able to regulate firearms and knives," he said at the news conference.
But lawmakers blasted Soglin's reasoning.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said city governments shouldn't be able to undermine the state's gun rights protections.
"Cities should not be able to infringe on the rights of responsible gun owners who rely on their concealed carry permits for self-defense as they utilize public transportation to travel throughout their communities," he said in a statement.
Republican Rep. Joel Kleefisch, a frequent gun rights advocate, said private bus companies like Greyhound can set their own rules, but state law dictates what public transit systems can do.
"If the criminals know they'll be the only ones on the buses with guns, they're much more likely to bring a gun on a bus," Kleefisch said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos also said altering the concealed-carry law is a no-go even though he hasn't discussed it yet with fellow Republicans.
"I'd say the odds don't look good," he said.
Gov. Scott Walker, who signed the state's concealed-carry law in 2011, also rejected the idea.
"The people I'm worried about are not the people who are legally owning a firearm," Walker said. "You should be more worried about the people who possess firearms who aren't legal to have them in the first place."
Still, Soglin said Wednesday he's undeterred.
"We still intend to try and find someone to introduce responsible legislation closing this dangerous loophole," he said, adding that he worries about students who take public buses to school.
He couldn't recall any major safety threats involving guns on city buses in recent years.
"The only reason we haven't had incidents involving firearms is because they've been banned," he said.
The state's concealed-carry law allows people to get licensed to carry a concealed weapon in public. In addition to giving private property owners the right to ban weapons on their premises, it prohibits weapons in school zones in most cases. But Kleefisch and other Republican lawmakers have proposed removing the school zone exception in recent years.
Associated Press writer Scott Bauer contributed to this story.
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