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360: Should Wisconsin implement red flag laws? New MU Poll shows 81% support

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Posted at 3:30 PM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 19:26:00-04

MILWAUKEE — Marquette University Law School released a new poll Wednesday, showing 81 percent of respondents think Wisconsin should have red flag laws.

This comes a day after the U.S. Senate cleared the first hurdle to passing a bipartisan gun reform package, which includes millions of dollars in resources for states that implement red flag laws.

Red flag laws typically allow family members or law enforcement to ask the court system to temporarily remove firearms from someone who’s deemed to be a danger to themselves or others.

Since Wisconsin is among the majority of states without red flag laws, let’s go ‘360’ to hear from a variety of perspectives about whether that should change.

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A national organization pushing for stricter gun laws explains the outcomes of red flag laws in other states; a local gun store shares what it would mean for required background checks; and a gun rights advocate outlines his concerns about who could raise the ‘red flag.' But we start with an educator who’s fed up with shootings in Milwaukee.

“I believe that on paper, it’s a plausible and decent idea, but I’m also no stranger to how things may look good on paper, but in practice they’re kind of administered a bit differently,” said Mark Peterson Jr.

Peterson launched a clothing line called “Why We Still Killing Each Other” to inspire an end to gun violence through fashion.

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He believes family members should be able to petition a judge to have guns removed from loved ones who have made credible threats to kill someone, but he’s worried about potential disparities Black and Brown people may face if law enforcement has the same ability.

“It’s less about the family members making that opportunity to get that gun taken and more so a concern of law enforcement now having that opportunity to say, ‘Yo, this person doesn’t need this gun,’” Peterson said. “What happens in that moment? What happens when the police get to the house to take the gun? It may become hostile and in that hostile exchange, what danger is that household now placed in?”

The latest Marquette Law School Poll asked hundreds of registered voters in Wisconsin whether the state should adopt red flag laws. 81 percent of respondents said they were in favor and 13 percent said they were opposed. The margins show support hasn’t changed since the last time the question was polled in 2019.


Nik Clark is the president of Wisconsin Carry Inc., an organization that advocates for Second Amendment rights.

“There’s this naive notion that’s kind of like a spoiled notion of Americans that think we can prevent these kinds of crimes with a law. I mean, murder is already illegal and it’s not preventing crime,” he said.

Clark doesn’t think law enforcement or family should have the right to ask a judge to temporarily have someone’s firearms confiscated for a perceived threat.

“There’s family members that would literally report their family member to get guns out of their hands, but who is a family member? Is that a husband, wife, step parent?” Clark said.

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These 19 states already have red flag laws, which are often called extreme risk protection orders. Anneliese Dickman says red and blue states have implemented them in a bipartisan manner.

“We know from older experience like Indiana that’s had these for several years, to Connecticut that’s a little newer, that not only are threats averted and suicides averted, but often times the people then go on to receive mental health treatment,” she said.

Dickman works for the Brady Campaign, an organization that advocates for federal and state policy changes to prevent gun violence.

While Wisconsin does not have a red flag law, it does require people to surrender their firearms if a judge grants a restraining order against them for a domestic violence-related incident.

“So in Wisconsin, we do that for those types of relationships, an extreme risk protective order would be very very similar, but would include other types of relationships,” Dickman said.

Adam Campbell is the firearms training director at a gun store in West Milwaukee. If Wisconsin were to implement red flag laws, a firearms owner deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others would also be temporarily barred from purchasing guns.

“I would say it would add to an already large burden of liability that gun stores already face,” Campbell said.

Campbell thinks red flag laws would further complicate required background checks at licensed firearm dealerships.

“Gun stores must go above and beyond the standard of the law,” he said. Making a simple mistake while being within the law, not breaking the law, not observing someone, not watching somebody’s car when they pull up in the parking lot, not paying attention to certain things could cause extreme liability where there’s a million different hoops and red flags that a gun dealer has to jump through."

Ultimately, if the gun reform compromise legislation is passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, states that implement red flag laws would get a portion of $750 million for programs which would help authorities temporarily confiscate guns and keep them secure.

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