GOP state representative's gun doctrine relies on rational actors, while our gun laws do not.State Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) is at it again. This time, he’s introducing legislation that would make businesses liable for injuries incurred on their premises if they are a gun-free site.
Gannon maintains that’s inviting trouble. “There are violent thugs in our midst, some homegrown, some international, who are determined to cause us harm,” he said in his press release. But rather than find a way to stymie would-be offenders, Gannon goes on the attack against Wisconsin businesses.
The bill would allow victims of gun violence and their families to collect three times the amount of damages typically allocated in these situations. It would also allow victims to sue businesses regardless of who was at actual fault in the instances.
This is a typical response that Gannon employs -- reacting to sensible gun law proposals by insisting that looser gun laws are needed.
Yet Gannon’s reasoning isn’t very sound. Every day, thousands of businesses across the state display a “No Weapons” sign on their premises without an issue. In fact, people who go on gun rampages don’t scope out so-called “gun-free zones” -- there’s zero evidence that backs that idea up. Instead, they typically go to places that have meaning for them (workplaces, for example).
But gun violence isn’t limited to private businesses, of course, and Wisconsin has seen a rise in violent crime and murder rates in the past four years since we’ve deregulated gun ownership, with most of these crimes happening at places other than these weapons-free businesses.
What Gannon and others are attempting to do is shift the blame from gun owners onto businesses in the state that want to keep guns off of their premises. Doing so would force many businesses to reconsider their policies, allowing for looser gun rules in their establishments and growing the number of guns in public.
However, loosening gun rules won’t make anybody safer. The statistics back this point up: since 2011 when Wisconsin began deregulating gun laws under Gov. Scott Walker, violent crime in Wisconsin has gone up by more than 22 percent, and the murder rate has gone up by 71 percent.
Proponents of loosening gun laws like Rep. Bob Gannon rely on the same principles that guided nuclear politics during the Cold War -- that is, the idea of Mutual Assured Destruction. The thought behind this is simple enough: You won’t hurt me if I can hurt you back. And for the most part, there is some evidence that this policy, through reasonable guidance of rational actors, kept the peace during much of the rhetorical conflicts between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
But while M.A.D. on the international scene relied on rational actors, our gun laws do not -- there isn’t a test for owning a gun, and those with mental illness can easily access guns also. But discount the mentally ill for a moment (because most crimes aren’t committed by these individuals anyway) -- even supposedly rational actors who purchase guns can act irrationally when a gun is within their immediate vicinity.
This isn’t supposition from someone who wants a change in gun laws -- it’s documented by several psychological studies that demonstrate guns make people act more rash. For example, one study found that those with guns in their cars tended to engage in “road rage” more frequently than those who didn’t have a gun in their car. Another study found that participants were more anxious to dish out punishments to other individuals when weapons were displayed in the same room.
Consistently, these studies show more aggressive tendencies in people when they’re in the near vicinity of a gun...which may explain why gun violence has grown as gun laws have loosened in Wisconsin.
Bob Gannon’s answer to gun violence is to make gun laws even looser than they already are. Yet it’s clear to see that’s the wrong direction to take.
We’re not doing the state any favors by listening to Gannon’s flawed logic. It’s time to start considering other options, including reforms to our loose gun standards.