RACINE, Wis. (AP) — A Racine lawmaker wants to repeal Wisconsin’s 48-hour waiting period to buy handguns.
The original intent of the waiting period was to give gun dealers enough time to complete a background check, Republican state Sen. Van Wanggaard said. Now that information is digitized and background checks can be done almost instantly, Wanggaard says a 48-hour waiting period amounts to a “time tax,” The Journal Times reported.
Handgun purchasers would still have to pass a background check to prove they can legally have a gun.
“An individual that is able to lawfully possess a firearm, they’re restricted — why?” Wanggaard said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”
Supporters of the waiting period say it gives people in emotional distress a needed cooling-off period.
For example, a suicidal person may be able to pass a background check and get a handgun. But if those persons had to wait a few days, they would have time to rethink or have a chance for an intervention, said Luann Simpson, program director at the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Racine County.
“If I could pass a background check and get a gun immediately, I’m more likely to make that suicide attempt than if I had to wait three days to get a weapon,” Simpson said. Simpson said NAMI isn’t necessarily opposed to the bill, but feels waiting periods can help tamp down impulsive behavior.
A waiting period also helpful for people struggling with domestic violence, said Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney for the California-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“If you introduce a waiting period into that cycle, you may save somebody’s life,” Cutilletta said.
Wanggaard, a former police officer, rejects the argument that waiting periods for handgun purchases help prevent violence.
“If somebody has the thought of doing something, they’re going to use whatever is at their fingertips at the time they make that decision,” he said.
Ten states and the District of Columbia have laws requiring a waiting period to buy guns, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The organization did not have statistics comparing states with waiting-period laws to those without them.
The Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety has scheduled a public hearing on the bill Thursday.