MADISON, Wis. - As Gov. Tony Evers and Democratic lawmakers tout support for a "red flag" bill in Wisconsin, Republicans are taking issue with the governor's comments on mandatory gun buybacks.
A recent news conference was supposed to be about strengthening background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) or a proposed "red flag" law to allow a judge to seize people's firearms for up to a year if they pose a threat to themselves or others. But when Evers said he'd also consider mandatory buyback of assault weapons, top Republican leaders lashed out, claiming it's all a ploy to take guns from legal owners.
Democratic Rep. Melissa Sargent of Madison sponsors the "red flag" bill. "I haven't seen any legislation when it comes to gun buybacks this session," says Sargent. "And quite frankly I'm investing my time and energy into these two bills and commit to work hard with the attorney general, the governor and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to move them forward and save lives in Wisconsin."
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed similar red-flag bills. Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke has been pushing for mandatory gun buybacks in recent weeks but GOP leaders in Wisconsin say a state proposal would not succeed as long as they remain in control. Sargent says the string of mass shootings around the country should be enough to get lawmakers to act. "I know that gun violence is a true reality for too many people in the state of Wisconsin and that the status quo is not working for our friends and neighbors," says Sargent. "And it's vitally important that we as a Legislature stand up and hear the cries of the people in our communities."
Sargent also sponsors the bill calling for an expansion of background checks for gun sales in the state. It would require the Wisconsin Department of Justice to conduct checks on purchases made at gun shows, online auctions and other sales that aren't covered by federal law.
Republicans have said they had no interest in the bill.