RACINE — State Sen. Van Wanggaard said he will seek changes to a wide-ranging bill relaxing regulations on the state’s concealed carry laws.
Wanggaard, R-Racine, said he generally supports the proposal and has signed on as a co-sponsor. The bill, co-authored by state Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, allows people to carry concealed handguns without a license or training.
It also allows permit-holders to bring firearms into places they are currently barred — including school buildings — unless signs are posted prohibiting them, according to an Associated Press report.
The proposal enjoys support from many Republicans but more work on the bill is needed, said Wanggaard, who is a concealed carry proponent and chairs the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.
Wanggaard said legislators need to reconcile the bill with federal law, which bars people from carrying guns within 1,000 feet of a school without a state-issued CCW license. Wanggaard believes residents should be able to carry a gun, open or concealed, on school property as long as they are there for a lawful purpose.
But he added the bill should focus on “constitutional carry” and not deviate too far into where guns are or are not allowed. He pointed to a provision that addresses carrying firearms while shining wildlife (using a light at night to illuminate prey) as an example of something that should be scrapped.
“There’s a little bit of work to do on this bill,” Wanggaard said. “We’ve been working together to solve some of those issues.”
Democrats and other opponents say they are alarmed by the proposal, particularly with allowing some people to have guns on school grounds and ending training requirements for concealed carry.
“The authors of the bill put forward extreme provisions that go beyond even constitutional carry by allowing guns in schools, secure mental health facilities and police stations, while placing the burden on these facilities to protect citizens,” state Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said in a statement.
It isn’t yet clear whether the bill has enough support among Republicans, who control both chambers of the state Legislature, to move forward.
Racine County Republicans, including state Rep. Thomas Weatherston and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, have voiced support for the bill.
“As a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, I’m generally supportive of it and will monitor public support as we determine our next steps,” said Vos, R-Rochester.
Gov. Scott Walker also offered general support without promising to get behind the specific proposal, the AP reported.
Craig said the response overall has been positive since the bill was announced March 28. The bill has 50 co-sponsors among Republicans in the Senate and Assembly, he said.
Concerns about the bill diminish once people realize what the law already allows, such as the ability for people to openly carry a gun without a permit, Craig said.
“I continue to get constituents that come to me and say, the lawbreakers will break the law no matter what. What we are concerned about is our constitutional rights, and why should we have to pay 40 bucks, why should we have to go through this bureaucracy?” said Craig, whose district includes Waterford. “At the end of the day, this is a constitutional right.”