Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Call to Wangaard's office turns up flimsy rationale for removing 48-hour gun waiting period

In four decades since waiting period went into effect, State Senator can point to only one incident, a questionable one at that

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State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine)
Yesterday I wrote a piece about why the governor and legislature were wrong to support a measure ending the 48-hour gun waiting period. I essentially said that deregulation of gun laws won't lead to a safer Wisconsin, providing examples in the state and elsewhere that such measures had failed.

I wasn't the only one who wrote about the 48-hour waiting period. State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) also had something to say, although his piece was largely in favor of removing the waiting period, a response to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's editorial scolding Republicans for scrapping the law.

The second paragraph in his piece caught my attention. In it, Wanggaard wrote:
For every gun violence story that the Journal Sentinel 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.
That bit in bold (my emphasis, not Wanggaard's) troubled me. I did a quick Google search and nothing of the sort really came up. Had the 48-hour waiting period cost anyone their life in the past?

I decided to do something about it. I called Wanggaard's Senate office in Madison and asked if there were any cases where this had indeed happened.

Wanggaard's aide supplied me with one example: Bonnie Elmasri, who lived in Wauwatosa in 1991.

You're reading that correctly: the reason Wanggaard opposes the 48-hour waiting period to purchase a gun is based on a crime committed more than 24 years ago. I pressed the aide, "Were there more examples that the Senator could give?" The aide was unaware of any such examples.

So it's just the one instance, we're left to presume, for why Wanggaard and other Republicans are so insistent this law needs to be repealed. But the case of Bonnie Elmasri is much more complicated than what Wanggaard is making of it.

Here's some background: Elmasri and her two children were brutally murdered by her husband in 1991. The two were in the middle of a nasty divorce, and it ended tragically in her family's murders and the assailant's suicide.

There are claims that Elmasri had attempted to purchase a gun. Indeed, arguments against the Brady Law were made around that time based on this incident, with some calling Elmasri the first "victim" of that bill.

But the claims are dubious at best -- the gun dealer making them couldn't definitively say that it was Elmasri who had asked to purchase a gun from him. And Elmasri's close family have gone on record as stating she would never have purchased a gun to begin with, and that, during that 48-hour period, her whereabouts were nowhere near a gun shop.

"My sister would never buy a weapon, never," said Gary Greenberg, Elmasri's brother. "I believe [the story is made up] entirely or that somebody called him up by the name of Bonnie, but that it was not my sister."

"We can account for almost every minute of the 48 hours" before she was killed, Greenberg added.

Then there's the omitted portion of the story: Elmasri reportedly let her estranged husband into her home, repeatedly. He didn't barge his way in. He was allowed into her home, despite her filing a restraining order against him.

That doesn't sound like the actions of a woman so fearful for her safety that she'd try to get a gun to defend herself. Which makes me wonder whether this incident is truly a catalyst for Wanggaard's reasoning, or instead a convenient tale for him and others to use in order to justify their support for removing reasonable waiting times for gun purchases.

To recap: when asked what incidents made removing the 48-hour waiting period such a priority, Sen. Van Wanggaard's office could point to only one story in the four decades since the waiting period was passed that he felt "cost someone his or her life." And upon closer inspection, that incident's outcome likely didn't involve the 48-hour waiting period at all.

Sen. Wanggaard needs to come clean and explain his true rationale for removing the waiting time for gun purchases. It will take more convincing now to demonstrate it has nothing to do with lobbying rather than personal conviction.

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