Monday, February 8, 2016

Will Madison's first homicide of 2016 change minds on gun laws in Wisconsin?

Murder on Madison's east side the sad result of repealing state's 48-hour gun wait law

A young man, enraged after his romantic advances were turned down and who was subsequently fired for his continued harassment of his co-worker, was able to buy a gun and kill a young woman within a single day.

Madison’s first homicide of the year exemplifies how the removal of the previous 48-hour waiting period law to purchase a firearm was a mistake. The “cooling off” period could have allowed Caroline Nosal’s assailant to consider other options, including finding help for himself.

Instead, the man who murdered Nosal described his efforts to get a gun in three simple words: “It was easy.”

Nosal’s story is a tragic one, and shouldn’t be so easily overlooked by our state legislators. The man who murdered her (I won’t dignify him by including his name) took advantage of the law allowing citizens to purchase firearms without waiting for more than a click of the mouse before doing so.

Let’s remember that State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) was a huge proponent of removing the 48-hour waiting period. His justification rested on the idea that those who wanted to defend themselves wouldn’t be able to do so if they had to wait.

In April of last year Wanggaard wrote:
For every gun violence story that [can be] cited as a reason for this antiquated law, I could write an equally emotional story showing that a firearm saved a life or that the waiting period cost someone his or her life.
When I called Wanggaard’s office to ask for those stories, they could only supply one, even when pressed for more. And that story didn’t have anything to do with the 48-hour waiting period either. The family of Bonnie Elmasri disputes the accounts that Wanggaard and other lawmakers have made regarding her death, and regularly shuns them for using her as a ploy to dismantle reasonable gun laws.

But now we have a legitimate, true story of how a young woman’s life was taken, a direct result of the new “insta-gun” purchase legislation that was passed last year.

We have also seen that removing waiting periods can lead to hikes in violent crime and suicide. South Dakota saw a 70 percent jump in violent crime just four years after it repealed its own 48-hour waiting period to buy guns, for example.

And violent crime has jumped significantly in our own state following passage of laws meant to deregulate gun ownership -- since concealed carry was signed in 2011, violent crime has gone up by 22 percent in the state, and murder is up 20 percent.

This happened despite Gov. Scott Walker’s promise that the state would be safer after he signed concealed carry into law

In light of this recent incident, and with overwhelming evidence contradicting both anecdotal and statistical arguments that conservatives have made, will Republicans in Wisconsin finally admit that they made a mistake in deregulating the state’s gun laws since they took office?

Or should we expect more of the same? Will they simply ignore these truths, and ponder more ways to make Wisconsin more like the wild west?

Let’s hope voters will wise up to this as well. We need more common sense gun laws, and for that to happen it will require legislators with rational minds writing reasonable legislation.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Walker doesn’t focus on his poll numbers -- but maybe he should

Governor tells reporters he’s been in this position before...except, he hasn’t

Thirty-six percent -- the number of Wisconsinites that want Gov. Scott Walker to run for a third term.

Sixty-one percent -- the number that want Walker to not run again once his term is up.

Fifty-seven percent -- the disapproval rating that Walker currently has among registered voters.

These numbers, from the most recent Marquette Law School Poll, are not good news for the governor. But in spite of them, Walker says he remains focused on possibly running for a third term.

“Well, in 2011, my poll numbers were so low that Time magazine called me ‘Dead Man Walker,’” he said on Wednesday, reminding reporters that he won the recall just one year after those poll numbers were taken.

But there’s just one problem with that assessment: Walker’s polling numbers from then weren’t as low as they are now. To compare then and now disregards huge jumps in his net approval ratings.

Public Policy Polling, a left-leaning polling company, published a poll at the height of those protests (PDF) in March that demonstrated Walker still had the approval of 46 percent of the state. Only 52 percent disapproved of his short time in office.

That’s a net disapproval of only six percent. Today, Walker is dealing with a net disapproval of 19 percent, more than three times as high as when he “dropped the bomb” on Wisconsin (his words, not mine).

That same PPP poll from 2011 showed that, while the governor suffered an approval rating of only eight percent of Democratic voters, Republicans approved of his job by a rate of 86 percent. Today, however, that Republican approval rating has dropped to 72 percent.

Among independents the drop was even sharper. In 2011, 45 percent of PPP surveyed independents approved of Walker’s time on the job. Today, only 15 percent of independents approve.

With Walker’s numbers dropping by 16 percent among his own party, and dropping by 30 percent among independents, it’s a safe bet to say that the governor is in trouble politically. How he somehow believes he will be able to run for -- and win -- a third term in office is a mystery.

Then again, this is the same governor that believed tax cuts for the rich would bring huge job numbers to the state (instead of the disastrous last-in-the-Midwest ranking we have under his leadership). So maybe his ambitions aren’t that mysterious after all.

Maybe Walker really is that ignorant.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On the fifth anniversary of the Wisconsin protests, there are reasons for optimism

Wisconsinites now understand just how terrible the governing style of Scott Walker really is

Five years ago this month, Gov. Scott Walker dropped a proverbial bomb on Wisconsin.

In one fell swoop, his proposal to restrict state workers from exercising their right to bargain contracts collectively ignited the passions of millions of Wisconsinites across the state.

His move led to hundreds of thousands of protesters descending on the Capitol lawn in Madison. The protests gained national attention and prompted a recall election against Walker.

The governor won that recall election, and a subsequent re-election two years later. His backers implied that these wins were a vindication of his ideas.

But we stand here now, five years on, and see that Walker is not vindicated in his actions. Six in ten Wisconsinites now see him in a disapproving way, and only 38 percent approve of the way he has handled his job as governor (PDF).

And it’s not hard to figure out why:
All of these terrible ideas (and much, much more) that have sent Wisconsin backwards began with Walker's collective bargaining law five years ago. We thousands that protested in the Capitol Rotunda came together to recognize his failure as a leader in the first few months that he had assumed power.

Sadly not every Wisconsinite saw what we did in February 2011. But I’m optimistic today because the people of this great state are starting to see the light.

They now understand that Walker has been a terrible governor. And a majority agree -- he should never run again for the office he currently holds.

That’s a positive sign that things in Wisconsin won’t always be this way. Walker won’t be governor forever, and the state’s voters are rejecting his methods of governance -- which means we can restore Wisconsin’s progressive values in the years ahead.