People with concealed weapon licenses would be allowed to carry guns inside the buildings and classrooms of Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges under a bill introduced Monday by two state legislators.
The bill would revoke an exception to the state’s concealed carry law allowing technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System to ban weapons inside campus buildings, and comes less than two weeks after a gunman killed nine people at an Oregon community college.
The proposal’s authors, state Rep. Jesse Kremer, R-Kewaskum, and state Sen. Devin LeMahieu, R-Oostburg, circulated it for co-sponsors Monday afternoon.
License holders can carry guns on the grounds of public colleges and universities under the 2011 law, but those institutions are allowed to ban weapons inside campus buildings.
UW-Madison is one that has done so, posting signs at every entrance to every campus building making clear that weapons are prohibited inside.
Kremer said the effect of the distinction is that students and others go unarmed while they’re on campuses and on their way to the institutions because they know they can’t enter buildings with their weapons or safely store them outside.
“It really is a useless measure,” Kremer said Monday on WIBA-AM.
Kremer told host Matt Kittle that allowing students and others to carry weapons would be a “deterrent” to crime on and around campuses.
Neither Kremer nor LeMahieu responded to interview requests Monday afternoon.
“The unfortunate reality is that campus gun-free zones merely serve to concentrate populations of vulnerable targets on campus and surrounding areas,” the bill’s authors wrote in the co-sponsorship memo they sent to legislators.
Spokesmen from the UW System and UW-Madison said their offices were still evaluating the legislation Monday afternoon and declined to comment on it.
UW-Madison banned employees from carrying concealed weapons at work after the concealed carry bill was signed into law. It has also barred weapons from outdoor events such as football games at Camp Randall Stadium.
State Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, whose district includes the Truax Campus of Madison Area Technical College, sharply criticized the bill, saying it would not be effective in preventing crime and questioning the wisdom of allowing more guns on campuses where drinking alcohol is common.
“I don’t see how this adds to the safety on campus,” she said. “Having folks walk around with concealed carry doesn’t make me feel safer.”
Kremer told WIBA the bill is not a response to the Oct. 1 shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Instead, he said, it is meant to help college students who feel unsafe walking to classes unarmed.
Those students should not be denied their Second Amendment right, Kremer and LeMahieu argue in their co-sponsorship memo.
“We’re basically treating our college students as lesser citizens,” Kremer said. “We’re disarming them and allowing these thugs free reign over the neighborhood.”