In January of this year, Governor Jim Doyle vetoed “concealed carry” legislation passed by the Wisconsin legislature. This legislation would have allowed qualified Wisconsin residents to carry a concealed weapon in public places. Thirty-five states in the U.S. have already adopted a version of the concealed carry law that was proposed in Wisconsin. These are known as “shall-issue” states. This is because if an individual in these states wishes to carry a concealed weapon, the licensing authority in the state must grant him or her a license– provided that he or she meets some basic requirements set forth in law, including a clean background check. An additional eleven states have “may issue” statutes, which give state and local authorities discretion over whether to grant a permit to individuals who wish to carry a concealed weapon. Finally, four states — Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, and Nebraska — have an outright prohibition on the carrying of concealed weapons in public.
Legislators have been trying to add Wisconsin to the ranks of shall-issue states in recent years. In 2003, the Senate and Assembly passed shall-issue legislation and sent it to Governor Doyle for his consideration. The governor vetoed the bill, and the legislature was unable to override. In 2005, the legislature took up the issue again, this time offering some concessions to law enforcement authorities and other stakeholders. As he did in 2003, Governor Doyle vetoed the legislation (in early 2006). The legislature was again unable to override the governor’s veto.
During the course of the legislative debate, opponents of shall-issue legislation emphasized the following four arguments:
- The proposed shall-issue law provided for inadequate training for permit-holders;
- More guns on the street would result in more violence;
- Guns are not useful for self-defense; and
- Law enforcement opposes shall-issue legislation, so the rest of us should, too. In the following pages, I examine each of these arguments in detail.