Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Dane County Returns Fire Over Concealed Carry

Dane County Executive Kathleen M. Falk released a letter today asking the legislature to oppose the "Concealed Carry" bills currently making their way through both houses of the legislature Ms. Falk brings up a couple of interesting points on why the bills should be opposed.

From Falk's letter, via WisPolitics:

The first major problem with the bill occurs in that section which lists those places where concealed guns will still be prohibited. Many public facilities are not listed. Examples in Dane County would include the Alliant Energy Center and the Henry Vilas Zoo.

Last year, 503,314 people visited the Henry Vilas Zoo. At many times of the year, such as Halloween, the Zoo is filled with people, mostly families with small children. Gunfire in such a setting could create a panic and easily lead to a crush of people trying to escape and hurting themselves and many others in the process. The Alliant Energy Center (AEC) hosts events ranging from concerts, rodeos, wrestling, monster truck/car shows, home shows, circuses, the County Fair, and World Dairy Expo. The safety of those event goers is jeopardized because your bills allow weapons to be concealed and carried into these events. At many of these you already
have the mixture of high excitement and alcoholic beverages. Adding guns to that mix is a bad idea. Furthermore, the AEC or the event promoter provides police or private security to maintain public safety. Concealed guns will not help that effort either.

Given that the primary justification for these bills is an interest in public safety, this seems to be an awfully glaring oversight. What possible reason could there be for allowing folks to bring hidden firearms into either a zoo or public event center? Quite a few other public locations are listed in the text of each bill, which begs the question of why these places were ignored. If the omission was by accident, then shame on the Republicans (and the NRA) for failing to responsibly vet the bills before introducing them into the legislature. If intentional, then shame on them twice for advancing ideological and lobbyist interests ahead of public safety. With governance like this, it's no small wonder that the majority of Wisconsinites don't trust their government.

Falk goes on to detail another glaring omission, potentially even more damaging than the first:

According to SB 403 and AB 763, weapons can be concealed and carried in county buildings that house human service programs, transportation, public works, child support, public safety and county parks. The only way to keep weapons out of a public facility is to "provide electronic screening for weapons at all public entrances to the building and for the locked storage of weapons on the premises." Many of our human service programs are located throughout the county in order to more conveniently serve citizens. But this variety of facilities would make it cost prohibitive to add such screening to these facilities (and most counties could choose that option under the property tax freeze only by cutting other services).

What are we trying to accomplish by having concealed guns in a child support office or a juvenile shelter where people face difficult decisions, are often emotionally distraught, and occasionally upset with the public employees running those facilities?

I have to confess to some personal bias here, as my sister is a social worker. Fortunately she lives in Illinois, where this sort of wingnuttery would never get out of committee. I think Falk's closing question really nails the issue right on its head. If the purpose of Concealed Carry laws is to increase public safety, then how can it possibly allow concealed weapons in such an environment? The analogy of a match and dry tinder comes right to mind.

Further on in her letter, Falk also objects to the law enforcement amendment detailed in my previous post.

Falk's letter outlines where the opposition to these bills is really crystallizing: urban areas. For those not familiar with the State of Cheese and Deer Sausage, Dane County is where that great shining bastion of liberalism, Madison, can be found. It's also the second largest urban area in Wisconsin, slightly larger than Green Bay and well behind Milwaukee. It's in urban areas, especially violence-prone Milwaukee, that the Concealed Carry law will have it's most onerous effects. Unfortunately, most of the support for the bills comes from rural hunters and paranoid suburbanites who are likely to never actually face the threat of violent attack in their lives. This diversity in Wisconsin is what makes gun control issues in general tricky.

There really is no credible reason to support Concealed Carry legislation and a majority of Wisconsin voters have realized this each and every time the bills get re-introduced. FBI statistics have shown that Concealed Carry laws do not reduce the crime rate. Even if they did, Wisconsin already has the 6th lowest crime rate in the nation. Ms. Falk's letter clearly demonstrates that public safety is not better served by allowing for Concealed Carry licenses. The question then only comes down to rights under the Second Amendment, and most reasonable people agree that some limitations have to be placed on the right to bear arms. There is just no compelling reason to expand this right to legalize concealed carry.

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