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Wisconsin Democrats seek to reestablish handgun purchase waiting period

Hand guns on dark stone table top view. ammunition or bullets at
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Hand guns on dark stone table top view. ammunition or bullets at black background.

Democratic lawmakers are seeking to reinstate Wisconsin's 48-hour handgun purchase waiting period, a proposal facing long odds in the Republican-held Legislature.

In 2015, GOP lawmakers, then in control of the state's government, repealed the handgun waiting period, which had been in place since the 1970s and allowed the state's Department of Justice time to conduct a background check of the purchaser.

Rep. Shelia Stubbs, D-Madison, said in a Wednesday news conference, the waiting period also acted as a guard against impulsive actions.

"Allowing purchases of firearms to be done on a whim opens the door to impulsive decisions, to result in terrible consequences," Stubbs asserted.

Since the pandemic began, Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee has reported treating an "unprecedented number of patients for gunshot wounds." The bill is unlikely to pass the Legislature, as Republican lawmakers have repeatedly introduced legislation to loosen gun-control laws. Those proposals have been rejected by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.

The proposal was introduced on the six-year anniversary of the murder of Caroline Nosal, who was shot and killed outside the grocery story where she worked on Madison's east side.

Dr. James Nosal, her father, said the 48-hour waiting period might have been enough to cause her killer, a former co-worker, to reconsider his plan.

"I'm not going to stand here and tell you that I can guarantee that a 48-hour waiting period would have saved my daughter's life," Nosal acknowledged. "But it might have given a troubled young man some time to get over his anger that he had lost his job because of his despicable behavior at work, and not because my daughter reported it."

Sen. Melissa Agard, D-Madison, hopes the bill will serve as a starting point for a broader discussion about gun control in Wisconsin.

"We know that it's not one piece of legislation that is going to solve the epidemic of gun violence in Wisconsin, but we need to start somewhere," Agard contended. "And this is a pragmatic solution."

According to a 2020 report from the state's Department of Health Services, nearly half of all recorded suicides from 2013 to 2017 were from a firearm. The same report noted the suicide rate in rural counties was slightly higher than in suburban and urban counties.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Born and raised in Indiana, Jonah Chester has been covering issues in Wisconsin for the past several years. He previously worked at WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, where he earned awards for his coverage of everything from law enforcement and policing to the 2020 presidential election.
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