Wisconsin Democrats By President's Call for Gun Restrictions

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Milwaukee, February 23, 2018 | comments
Wisconsin Public Radio - Rep. Moore says Trump's positions avoid bigger discussion on whether civilian should be able to own assault weapons.
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By Rich Kremer

Democrats in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation say they're encouraged that President Donald Trump is calling for increased gun control measures in the wake of the recent mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

On Thursday, the president tweeted that he'll push for comprehensive background checks on gun purchases, raising the age limit for buying semi-automatic rifles, and ban the sale of devices known as "bump stocks," which make semi-automatic rifles capable of shooting hundreds of bullets per minute.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said she recognizes that Trump is risking alienating some of his conservative supporters by calling for gun reforms. However, she called his positions "baby steps" that avoid a bigger issue.

"I think what the president has come out for will put him at some peril with his base and with the NRA, but you know, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is whether or not we should have assault weapons, whether or not the Second Amendment really relates and pertains to weapons of war," said Moore.

Moore said she is hesitant though about the mental health aspect of Trump's call for comprehensive background checks.

"I mean, I don't want to see everybody who takes depression medicine be put in some database and stigmatized with being dangerous," Moore said. "Certainly, there are a lot of mentally ill people who are not dangerous at all to anyone."

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, said he too appreciated seeing Trump move away from the traditional conservative Republican opposition to changes in gun laws.

"Like many fellow Wisconsinites that hunt and own guns, I believe that there are reasonable steps we can take to enhance gun safety while still being sensitive to Second Amendment rights," said Kind. "I'm encouraged to see the president move toward supporting these steps, and look forward to working across the aisle to do just that."

Kind added that the first place to start is to create a bipartisan commission to study and put forward proposals to reduce gun violence in schools and public places. His office did not elaborate on what studies would look at or what proposals might end up coming out of it.

In a statement from the office of U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, his communications director pointed to a previous call by the congressman to reinstate the assault weapons ban passed in 1994.

"As long as Congress fails to act, it is complicit in the deaths of innocent Americans. We must take common sense actions like reinstating the assault weapons ban, ending the sale of high-capacity magazines and closing loopholes in the background check system. For too long, Congress has rolled over when confronted by the NRA and the gun lobby and it’s time to finally take a stand. Congress must act now," Pocan said in the statement.

No Republican members of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation responded to requests for comment on this story.

In a statement to WLUK-TV from U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Green Bay, he commented on a breakdown of communication among local law enforcement leading up to the tragedy in Florida. He did say, though, that he's open to a bipartisan commission to examine gun violence.

Moore said while she is somewhat encouraged by Trump's calls for tightening gun laws, she said getting any real reform done before the November, midterm elections will be an uphill battle.

"This is an election year. So, the notion that anything of any significance is going to happen on guns, violence or any other issue would be risky to make that bet," said Moore. "A betting person wouldn't put any money on anything significant happening in an election year."

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