By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republicans who control the state Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would eliminate Wisconsin’s decades-old 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases, brushing aside Democrats’ concerns that the proposal would enable enraged people to quickly buy a deadly weapon.
The Senate passed the measure on a voice vote after the bill’s author, Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, argued that background checks can now be done far more quickly and people who can legally purchase pistols and revolvers shouldn’t be inconvenienced with having to make a return trip to gun stores to pick up their weapons.
“We are punishing people who can legally buy a gun,” said Wanggaard, a former police officer.
Democrats railed against the bill, saying eliminating the waiting period would allow angry people seeking revenge against their spouses, lovers or others to race to a gun shop and get a pistol within hours.
“Is society better served by letting people who are impulsive and angry go down and get a weapon?” asked Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison. “There’s no need for this bill at all. What’s wrong with a little inconvenience in order to give society a cooling-off period?”
Ten states and the District of Columbia currently impose some form of waiting period for buying handguns, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Wisconsin’s 48-hour period has been effect since 1976, according to the state Legislative Reference Bureau.
Wanggaard said the waiting period was enacted when background checks amounted to digging through file cards by hand. Today, computer technology allows the state Justice Department to conduct background checks in a matter of hours. If a buyer has a pristine record the check can be done almost instantly, he said.
Wanggaard said arguments that the waiting period helps defuse potential incidents are “a great talking point” but the wait plays little to no role in gun violence. He said people don’t have to endure waiting periods to buy other items that could be used as deadly weapons such as skillets or steak knives.
Democrats said a waiting period was common sense. Democratic senators from Milwaukee lamented that the measure will do nothing to curb gun violence in the state’s largest city, which has seen nearly 50 homicides already this year.
“You could say this bill takes a step backward,” said Sen. Tim Carpenter, D-Milwaukee.
The measure now goes next to the state Assembly. Kit Beyer, a spokeswoman for Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, said Vos supports the bill and the Assembly will take it up. She didn’t know when, however.
More than 30 Republican representatives have signed onto the measure as sponsors. The National Rifle Association has registered in favor of the bill, along with the Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs & Educators Inc., the state bear hunters association and the Milwaukee police union. End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort have registered against it. Follow @trichmond1