A bill that would allow gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permit advanced in the state Senate this week and while it's sponsors praise the measure, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is wary about its potential impact on the city.
It passed the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Tuesday in a 3-2 vote along party lines.
One of the bill's sponsors, State Sen. David Craig, (R) Town of Vernon, said 12 other states currently allow residents to conceal carry firearms without a permit. He wants Wisconsin residents to have the same right.
"Right now you can carry a firearm without a permit on your side and we just want you to be able to carry it concealed," Craig said.
Under current Wisconsin law, proof of training is required before someone can receive a concealed carry permit. However, you can open carry a firearm in the state without doing anything.
"For whatever reason, we've had this law in existence where if you put a coat on, you're now a felon, if you have your coat off and you're not covering up a firearm, you're not committing a crime," Craig said.
Barrett opposes this bill, claiming it will only lead to more guns on the streets. He said police have already seized more than 2,000 guns in the city so far this year.
"Milwaukee disproportionally seizes more guns than even major cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles," he said. "We don't need more guns on the streets, we need fewer guns on the street but where we do need help from the legislature we need more revenue sources so we can continue funding our police department."
Craig, whose district includes part of Milwaukee, said he takes the crime problem seriously but doesn't believe this bill won't change anything about obtaining a firearm, only how you carry it with you.
"The mayor unfortunately has chosen to reallocate resources to other areas other than the police on the street and I think that's something that needs to get remedied," Craig said. "I don't think the state has to authorize the mayor to provide any more revenue streaming to a city that's already misallocating funds."
More than 20 Wisconsin organizations oppose the bill, including Milwaukee Public Schools. Many of the organizations are upset that the bill allows concealed carry permit holders to take their guns into school zones. Right now it's illegal to do that, even with a permit.
Nik Clark with the non-profit group Wisconsin Carry says this bill will mostly benefit rural residents, because cities are full of school zones.
"This just makes the mere act of having a concealed weapon not a crime," he said. "Effectively many people will still get their license because of school zones."
The national gun safety organization Americans for Responsible Solutions sent a statement regarding the bill saying, "by advancing this reckless bill, the Wisconsin Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee is sacrificing the safety of Wisconsin's students, teachers and communities in order to further the gun lobby's dangerous agenda."
The bill will go to the full state Senate for a vote and if it passes, will then go to the state Assembly and eventually Gov. Scott Walker would have to sign it for the bill to become law.