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Evers, Democrats propose bill calling for background checks

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers speaks during a press conference announcing a bill that would expand background checks to most private gun sales in the state at the Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019. Others speakers at the event included Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, left, who delivered remarks about constituents in her district who have been affected by gun violence, and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, center. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Gov. Tony Evers speaks during a press conference announcing a bill that would expand background checks to most private gun sales in the state at the Wisconsin state Capitol in Madison on Thursday. Others speakers at the event included Sen. LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic lawmakers on Thursday proposed requiring more background checks for gun sales in the state and called on Republicans who control the Legislature to pass their legislation, even though GOP leaders have said they have no support for such a change.

“It’s time to stop waiting for permission from the NRA,” said Evers, a Democrat, at a news conference held to announce the bill. “Enough is enough, folks. This is a moderate proposal, folks. It’s time to be bipartisan and it’s time to lead.”

Evers’ proposal would require background checks for handgun purchases but would allow many exceptions. Not covered would be sales to a firearm dealer, a law-enforcement officer or member of the armed services or sales of firearms that are classified as antiques. Also exempted would be firearms that come as a gift or a family inheritance.

Even with the exemptions, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul said the bill would crack down on sales of guns online, at auctions and gun shows, which are not covered by federal law, which requires background checks only for guns sold through licensed firearm dealers.

Democrats pointed to a 2018 Marquette University Law School poll showing that more than 80% of the respondents are in favor of having universal background checks.

“This is not a controversial issue anywhere other than in this Capitol building,” said Rep. Melissa Sargent, a Democrat from Madison, who is sponsoring the bill along with Sen. LaTonya Johnson, of Milwaukee.

Republicans have repeatedly said they have no interest in it.

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, hours before the bill was released, said in an interview on WISN-AM that a background-check bill and a “red flag” proposal would prove ineffective and “very unlikely” to be taken up by the Legislature. Red-flag laws establish a process to take firearms away from people found to be a threat to themselves or others.

Vos said the proposals won’t get at the real sources of concerns, which he said are tied to mental health.

“There are things we can certainly work together on that would deal with the problem that’s real and not just the one that’s the political answer,” Vos said. “There should be commonsense middle ground.”

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald this week also said he is also opposed to a universal-background-check bill. He said it would violate the Constitution’s Second Amendment.

Evers called on every Republican to take a stand on his proposal, which he called a “reasonable and moderate step” to increase safety. He was joined by 16 Democratic lawmakers, Kaul, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Middleton Police Chief Charles Foulke.

“This is an issue that should transcend political parties,” Evers said.

Vos and Fitzgerald did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

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