Dems don't like Thompson's plans; rest of state doesn't like gun control
MADISON (AP) - The special legislative session urgently called in December to address an eruption of violent crime in Milwaukee isn't likely to take any action until at least March, legislative leaders say.
Controlling Democrats charge that the delays in state help for Milwaukee are due to a cool response to a package of anti-crime proposals by Gov. Tommy G. Thompson and outright opposition to new gun control measures.
Critics question the cost, constitutionality and interest by most other parts of the state in stricter laws governing the sale and possession of guns, despite a record 165 homicides last year in Milwaukee.
"I think most legislators haven't been particularly impressed with the package, so I expect in the next few weeks, the committees will hear the governor's proposals and several from legislators," said Assembly Majority Leader Dave Travis, D-Madison.
Travis said it was already clear that most of the proposals, particularly those with statewide ramifi-
cations, would fail because most lawmakers outside Dane and Milwaukee counties don't favor gun restrictions.
"Most in the Legislature have no interest in this. They will vote "no' on anything that smacks of gun control," Travis said.
Gov. Tommy G. Thompson and Milwaukee Mayor John O. Norquist urgently called for a special legislative session that would be used to address only Milwaukee's problems.
Lawmakers returned to work Jan. 7 but did not begin the special session until Jan. 28. They have taken no action on Milwaukee proposals since then and Travis predicts lawmakers need at least a month of committee hearings before any proposals reach the floor for debate.
Travis said Thompson's gun control measures would likely to be a sticking point for many but said it was too early to tell what role powerful pro-gun forces like the National Rifle Association would play.
"They don't have anything to shoot at yet," Travis said. "I think there are so many proposals floating around that no one knows what the salient ones are right now."
But the head of a Milwaukee-area group said few of the governor's proposals address the true genesis of killings in Milwaukee: A poor population in one part of the city that is beset by gang and drug problems.
"Milwaukee is like any other large city with a homicide problem. They are directly connected to the size of the ghetto," said James Fendry, of Hales Corners, director of the Wisconsin Pro-Gun Movement.
"When you pass a gun law, the criminal realizes an honest person is less likely to have a gun or use a gun," said Fendry, a former police officer. "Locally, statewide and nationally, people who focus on gun control don't care about crime control."
In addition to Thompson's gun control measures, Attorney General James Doyle Jr. has proposed lengthening the waiting period for handgun purchases from two days to seven days.
He also proposed mandatory background checks of buyers through his department.
Fendry and Rep. Marlin Schneider, D-Wisconsin, said a big concern for many was upgrading the penalty to a felony for carrying a concealed weapon.
"Women who carry guns in their purses for protection will be felons," Schneider said.
The lawmakers also said more mandatory sentencing strategies that will add to already overcrowded jails and prisons.
"This is an expensive proposal. The governor wants to put more people in an overcrowded prison system and jails are bursting at the seams," Travis said.