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Wisconsin Capitol to Allow Guns (T3)

Posted on : 01-11-2011 | By : Dean | In : EN101, Sources T3

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Walker policy would allow weapons on Assembly floor

By Patrick Marley and Jason Stein of the Journal Sentinel

Madison – The public will be able to carry guns into most parts of the state Capitol, under a policy being developed by Gov. Scott Walker.

Lawmakers are developing their own policies that would allow individual lawmakers to decide whether to allow guns into their offices.

Under rules planned for one chamber, guns would be allowed on the Assembly floor and in the Assembly viewing galleries, said sources who have been briefed on the plans. That would mean the public could bring guns into the viewing galleries but would still have to adhere to other existing rules, including one that bars the use of still cameras and video cameras.

“People who carry concealed can come in my office, I don’t care,” said Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester).

Vos said he planned to apply for a concealed-weapons permit but had not decided whether he would bring a gun to the Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller (D-Monona) said he has not been briefed on the plans.

“I don’t think there should be weapons in the Capitol,” Miller said. “People should be able to enter public buildings and feel safe.?.?.?.?There’s children who come in the building, for Pete’s sake.”

The Assembly Committee on Organization is to meet Thursday to set the policy on guns for that house. Minority Democrats are expected to raise concerns at that meeting.

No decision has yet been made by GOP senators on allowing guns on the Senate floor, in the Senate galleries and in committee rooms. Republicans who control that house will set a policy in the coming days, said John Hogan, chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie said an announcement would be made soon on the policy for guns in the Capitol and other state buildings but had no other comment.

Walker’s administration is charged with deciding whether to allow guns into the building because of a law Walker signed making Wisconsin the 49th state to allow people to carry concealed weapons.

The law takes effect Tuesday. People can carry concealed weapons once they receive a permit from the Department of Justice. Permits are available to those 21 and older who take a training course and pass a background check that shows they’re not felons or otherwise barred from possessing guns.

Sources said the administration’s plan would allow guns in most parts of the Capitol but not the state Supreme Court hearing room. The concealed weapons law bans guns in courthouses.

During massive protests this spring, the administration installed metal detectors to ensure no weapons were brought into the building. The protests were overwhelmingly peaceful, but lawmakers from both sides received death threats by email and phone.

Republicans complained they often felt unsafe, with Scott Fitzgerald at one point calling the Capitol a “powder keg.”

Fitzgerald spokesman Andrew Welhouse said Wednesday that Fitzgerald would likely allow guns in his office.

Hogan, Fitzgerald’s chief of staff, said GOP senators were seeking to work out a policy for the other areas under control of the Senate before the law takes effect. Hogan said he expected each senator to retain the final decision on his or her own office.

“The?.?.?.?places we need to consider are each office, the floor and galleries and the hearing rooms,” Hogan said.

On Tuesday, a dozen people were removed from the Assembly galleries and arrested for videotaping proceedings and holding up signs.

Vos said he did not see a contradiction in allowing guns in the galleries while banning the use of cameras. He said people could bring both guns and cameras into the galleries, but couldn’t use either.

“You can have a gun in the gallery, but you can’t shoot,” he said.

Have Glock, Will Travel (T3)

Posted on : 01-11-2011 | By : Dean | In : EN101, Sources T3

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By Frank Bruni

Between the struggle to fold a sport jacket so it doesn’t wrinkle, the 45-minute wait on a security line if I’m flying, the price of gas if I’m driving and the worry either way that I left the coffee maker on, I thought I was pretty well versed in the inconveniences and stresses of domestic travel.

Hardly! Things could be much, much worse, namely if I were a gun owner with a permit to carry a concealed firearm in my home state and an itch to do so in any other state I visited as well.

As matters now stand, I’d have to defer to the laws of those states, which vary widely. In some, my permit from back home would suffice, even if getting it required little more than proper adult identification, proof of residency and a smile. The smile might even have been negotiable. A scowl and a clean felony record and I was good to go.

Other states are sticklers, recognizing only their own concealed-carry permits and granting or withholding those based on such killjoy criteria as whether someone has a violent misdemeanor conviction, a history of alcohol abuse or any actual training in weapon safety. Some free country, ours.

Thank heaven for the National Rifle Association, its sights ever fixed on the forces that try to separate Americans from the deadly firearms they like to keep snug at their sides.

The N.R.A. is pushing a bill, the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011, that would eliminate the gun-toting traveler’s woes. Should it become law, any state that grants concealed-carry permits, no matter how strict the conditions, would be forced to honor a visitor’s concealed-carry permit from another state, no matter how lax that state’s standards.

Chris W. Cox, the N.R.A.’s chief lobbyist, recently wrote that the current situation “presents a nightmare for interstate travel, as many Americans are forced to check their Second Amendment rights, and their fundamental right to self-defense, at the state line.”

Nightmare? I think that term better applies to the N.R.A., though it’s not the first word that springs to mind when I mull its current effort.

Contradiction, hypocrisy: those words rush in ahead. The bill thus far has more than 200 Republican co-sponsors in the House, many of them conservatives who otherwise complain about attempts by an overbearing federal government to trample on states’ rights in the realms of health care, tort reform, education — you name it. But to promote concealed guns, they’re encouraging big, bad Washington to trample to its heart’s content.

Imagine how apoplectic they’d be if, on certain other matters, Washington forced their states to yield to others’ values the way this bill, H.R. 822, would compel New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut to honor more permissive gun-control regulations from the South and West. As it happens these three Northeastern states all perform same-sex marriages, which more conservative states do not have to recognize.

It’s not fair to talk only about Republicans. H.R. 822 has dozens of Democratic co-sponsors as well, and when Democrats controlled Congress for the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency, they made no major progress on gun control. Reluctant to cross the N.R.A., they let it slide.

In 2009, when Harry Reid, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate, was about to enter a tough re-election battle in Nevada, he actually voted in favor of legislation highly similar to H.R. 822. It was defeated. That same year President Obama signed a law permitting concealed guns in national parks.

The story on the state level has been just as sad over the last few years. Wisconsin recently approved concealed-carry legislation, leaving Illinois the only state in which civilians can’t carry concealed firearms. Several states have enacted laws spelling out that concealed weapons can in many circumstances be carried into bars.

One was Tennessee, where a state lawmaker who sponsored the legislation, Curry Todd,sometimes carries a loaded .38-caliber gun. I know this because it was beside him when Nashville cops pulled him over two weeks ago for drunken driving. They also charged him with carrying a firearm in public while intoxicated. At least that’s still illegal.

New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey and several other states don’t have reciprocity arrangements that allow someone like Todd to pay an armed courtesy call. That’s because New York officials can deny concealed-carry permits on a case-by-case basis, whereas many other states — South Dakota, for example — don’t put much stock in such scrutiny.

H.R. 822, now in the House Judiciary Committee, makes a mockery of our diverse values and strategies for public safety. If it were enacted, off to New York the South Dakotan tourist could go, 9-millimeter Glock in tow.

That’s not liberty. More like lunacy.

I invite you to follow me on Twitter at twitter.com/frankbruni and join me on Facebook.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on October 25, 2011, on page A31 of the New York edition with the headline: Have Glock, Will Travel.
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