Since concealed carry passed in 2011, state's crime rate has jumped 22 percentThe tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida, last weekend, in which a man armed with an assault rifle took the lives of nearly 50 individuals in a gay nightclub, behooves us to take a serious look at our laws regulating gun ownership.
Many are calling for a more restrictive process, including ensuring that no person on the “do-not fly” terrorist watch list is capable of purchasing a deadly weapon like the AR-15 used in last weekend’s attacks. Others are going further, insisting that the type of weapon used should be illegal for purchase outright.
The debate has reached Wisconsin, with many Democratic leaders calling for a renewed discussion on tightening our state’s gun laws. Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) gave an impassioned speech Monday about the dreadful state of gun politics today -- and how nothing gets done about it.
”What is going to be the point of action?” she asked her colleagues. “What will it take?”
Shilling’s parents were murdered in a mass shooting in Chicago in the early 1990s. Her experience provides her with unique perspective on the state Senate floor, one that her colleagues ought to show respect toward.
But Republican leaders remain unmoved. Gov. Scott Walker renewed his advice of simply saying, “If you see something, say something,” and other leaders remarkably are calling for looser gun standards.
From the Associated Press:
Rep. Bob Gannon, of Slinger, said there's no way to totally protect people in a free and open society. The state should reduce the number of gun-free zones, allow school personnel to carry a concealed weapon on school grounds and allow people to transport weapons in their car while on school grounds, all of which would make it easier for law-abiding citizens to protect their families and themselves.Walker’s advice is a do-nothing approach to gun violence. And I’ve taken both Gannon and Kremer to task on their calls for looser gun laws in the past. But it’s worth re-examining just how foolish their proposals really are.
Rep. Jesse Kremer of Kewaskum said state law shouldn't be changed except to allow people to carry weapons on Wisconsin college campuses. Kremer introduced a bill this past session that would have allowed concealed weapons in college buildings. He introduced the measure after a gunman killed nine people at a community college in Oregon. The bill failed.
Loosening gun laws didn’t make us safer, after all, when they were deregulated early in Walker’s tenure. In 2011 Walker signed the concealed carry law, which allowed citizens the ability to walk in public with a concealed weapon at any time. Just months later, he also signed a Castle Doctrine bill into law, and last year Walker and Republicans did away with the state’s four-decades old 48-hour wait time to purchase a gun.
All of these “reforms” were passed with the idea in mind that they’d make us safer, that they would empower citizens to defend themselves. The end to the 48-hour waiting period was justified by saying individuals needed to be able to buy guns faster to fend off would-be intruders (a flimsy rationale, at best, as I pointed out last year). And when he signed concealed carry into law, Gov. Walker exclaimed that his reforms would be “making Wisconsin safer for all responsible, law abiding citizens.”
So has Wisconsin become safer? The survey says...no.
According to FBI Crime Statistics, from 2011 to 2014 crime in Wisconsin actually increased. Violent crime, which was at a rate of 236 incidents per 100,000 citizens in 2011, went up to 290 incidents per 100,000 in 2014. That’s a significant increase, amounting to a rise in violent crime of about 22 percent during that time period.
Many conservative politicians have suggested this is an urban problem, but this is a trend that’s not just happening in Milwaukee. Though our state’s largest city saw the highest rise in crime, the stats show that it rose elsewhere, too. Nonmetropolitan areas also saw more than an 11 percent rise in violent crime from 2011 to 2014, and a 28 percent rise in murders.
Were we to be “safer” under the loosening of gun laws, we wouldn’t see a drastically higher trend of violent crime and murder rates. Walker assured us that we’d be safer under concealed carry, mainly because criminals would be deterred from attacking individuals if it wasn’t clear their would-be victims were “packing heat” or not.
Instead, crime went up. Whether that’s because of (or in spite of) loosening gun laws remains to be seen. But certainly Walker’s assertions that we’d be safer have been proven false.
The numbers mentioned above come from verified FBI crime reports, which go through to 2014. But new preliminary numbers from the state of Wisconsin present even more cause for concern. They show new stats from 2015, and unfortunately the trend is going in the wrong direction.
Violent crime was again at 290 incidents per 100,000 citizens in the state for 2015, similar to what it was in 2014 (and again a 22 percent increase from where we stood in 2011). But murders jumped up to more than 4.08 incidents per 100,000 -- a 42 percent increase in murders from the previous year, and a 71 percent murder rate increase from 2011’s numbers.
Once more, these weren’t all in Milwaukee. From 2014 to 2015, the rate of non-Milwaukee murders went up by more than 18 percent.
Conservative Republicans who are calling for looser gun laws to solve gun problems are stubbornly ignoring the facts. They’re also relying on a false notion, that greater access to guns (through looser gun regulations) will somehow make us safer. But we aren’t safer -- if anything, since looser gun laws have been enacted, Wisconsin has become more dangerous.
Again, that isn’t to say that looser laws are responsible for the rise in crime. But they sure aren’t solving the problems, either. Republicans should stop relying on this false idol to save us...too many are suffering because of their pride.