Is it too much to ask that weapons-permit holders obey Wisconsin’s sensible law banning guns in the hands of civilians from school grounds and buildings?
Changing gun-free zones, including schools, to guns-welcome zones is a priority of the National Rifle Association and the political action committees that support it, so it comes as no surprise that a bill has been introduced in the NRA-friendly Wisconsin Legislature that would allow guns on school grounds.
What does come as a bit of surprise is the creative rationale for the proposed law change. The sponsors, Rep. Rob Brooks (R-Saukville) and Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), say it’s needed to keep people with permits to carry concealed guns out of jail.
Under current law, weapons permit holders could be liable for arrest for a felony if they have a gun in their vehicle when they take their children to school. Said Brooks, “When they drop off their kids, pick up their kids, I don’t think they realize they’re breaking the law.”
Ignorance of the law doesn’t usually cut it as a defense. See how far it gets you to tell the police officer who pulls you over for speeding that you didn’t know the limit was 15 mph in a school zone.
The Brooks-Lazich bill would amount to a signed excuse for ignorance of the current law or for negligence in the failure of some gun-permit holders to remember they’re carrying, say, a Smith &Wesson .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol with a 15-bullet magazine under the seat of their car when they drive onto school grounds.
Wisconsin’s concealed-carry law asks very little for the privilege of carrying a gun besides passing a rudimentary training course and having a felony-free criminal record. Is it too much to ask that holders of such permits obey Wisconsin’s sensible law banning guns in the hands of civilians from school grounds and buildings?
It seems it should take more than a wish to accommodate the convenience of gun permit holders to justify writing a law, and it turns out there is more to this one. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “Brooks said he was offering the bill because he would feel terrible if there were a school shooting and parents and teachers told him afterward they didn’t have a chance to defend themselves because of state law.”
The comment suggests that the legislation is also intended to help achieve the gun lobby’s goal of getting guns inside of schools, which is borne out by a provision in the bill that would let school boards decide whether guns can be carried in classrooms, gyms and other areas inside of school buildings.
The notion that putting more guns in more places makes Americans safer is animated by the Rambo-dream scenario of an armed citizen stopping a San Bernadino type of assault-rifle massacre by dispatching the shooters as they do their evil work.
The more likely scenario involving civilians engaging in gun battles with criminals is shooting bystanders and adding to the loss of innocent lives.
New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, one of the many respected law enforcement officials who are saying that America’s gun problem is too many guns rather than, as the NRA preaches, too few, pointed out recently that even police officers trained as marksmen have trouble consistently hitting targets with handguns. The idea that a graduate of one of Wisconsin’s cursory concealed-carry classes is qualified to shoot in defense of children and teachers in schools cannot be taken seriously.
Of all places, schools should be safe havens from guns and the tragedy they can wreak, intended or accidental. That’s why so many local governments and states, with strong support from the public and educators, have declared schools gun-free places.
Following the NRA playbook, a bill to end gun-free status for Michigan schools has been introduced in that state’s legislature. A survey by one the nation’s most respected polling organizations found that 70% of the people of Michigan oppose allowing guns in schools. There is no reason to believe public opinion in Wisconsin would be any different.
Nothing good for Wisconsin can come from the Brooks-Lazich guns-at-school bill. It should be withdrawn from this legislative session, which would give Brooks time to consider whether getting guns into schools is really an achievement he wants on the record of his first term in the legislature representing Ozaukee County.