Nearly two hundred members of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE) and their coalition partners visited the State Capitol on October 24, urging legislators one by one to support two lifesaving, evidence-based bills that would help prevent gun violence.
The Gun Violence Prevention Day of Action began with an orientation on gun violence, held a couple blocks from the Capitol building in Madison at Bethel Lutheran Church. WAVE leaders and invited speakers offered educational sessions to the citizens, who addended from all over the state, about how to lobby their elected officials on the proposed legislation.
“Now, more than ever, we must remember that democracy is not a spectator sport. We need to get in the game. We need to participate. And that is why I am so thankful to see so much participation,” said Jeri Bonavia Executive Director and founder of the WAVE Educational Fund. “So let me say this loudly to those legislators who are willing to force our children to learn how to stand up to gunman, so that they don’t have to stand up to the gun lobby – you need to find a shred of moral decency, or find a new job.”
Governor Tony Evers, Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, and State Representative Melissa Sargent each addressed the crowd in thanks for supporting the proposed gun measures, and encouraged them to continue having discussions with their representatives. State Republicans have displayed outright defiance against the issue, disregarding the will of the people.
Just days before on October 21, Governor Evers signed an executive order in Milwaukee that called for a special session to address two gun control measures, expanded background checks and an extreme risk protection order. The Wisconsin constitution allows the Governor to call for a special session to force legislators to review an important issue.
“I signed the executive order to deliver on my promise of calling a special session of the legislature to address gun safety reform. We’re focusing on two bills that we know 80% of Wisconsinites, and the majority of gun owners support,” said Governor Tony Evers. “I want to be clear, I support the 2nd Amendment. That’s why I support these bills. The 2nd Amendment isn’t going away. These are commonsense proposals that we know can save lives and that we know 80% of Wisconsinites support. It’s that simple.”
The special session is scheduled for November 7. The bills propose mandatory background checks on all gun sales, and gives families the ability to petition the court for an extreme risk protective order (ERPO). Also known as a “red flag” law, it would allow for the temporary removal of firearms when loved ones are in imminent danger of hurting themselves or others.
“Despite choosing two pieces of common sense, straightforward, and overwhelmingly supported legislation, Republican leaders have already declared they’re not even doable. They’re going to gavel in, gavel down, and go home for the day. That’s not what folks expect out of their elected officials,” added Governor Evers. “Robin Voss and Scott Fitzgerald are only two of 132 members of the Legislature. The people of the state deserve to know where their legislators stand. They should not be able to ignore 80% of the people of Wisconsin.”
The two bills are customized for the needs of Wisconsin, and offer life saving and common sense solutions that do not infringe on the Second Amendment. They are designed to preserve public safety, prevent tragedies from occurring, and protect due process. However, there is too much political rhetoric from elected officials and money from the gun lobby that protects the status quo for some members of the public to see what the legislation actually proposes.
“What we’re doing here in Wisconsin and the United States is simply not enough to address the public health crisis that we are facing in our communities,” said Representative Sargent. “Our kids, our workers, our grandparents, everyone in Wisconsin deserves the right and the freedom to feel safe in their community. They should be able to live their life without that fear of being shot, or the loss of someone who that they love.”
Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Educational Fund is a statewide grassroots organization dedicated to preventing gun violence, injuries, and deaths through education and advocacy. Founded in 1997 by volunteers, the nonprofit has grown to include tens of thousands of supporters representing every county in Wisconsin.
“It’s not what the governor is asking. It is what the overwhelming majority of the people of Wisconsin are calling for. That’s the real problem,” said Lt. Governor Barnes. “It’s not about ignoring the governor, it’s about ignoring so many people in Wisconsin who want and deserve a safer, environment. And a safer future, especially for our children.”
Lt. Governor Barnes also accused Fitzgerald, who is running to fill retired U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner’s seat in Congress, of neglecting his constituents while he campaigns.
“He can’t be bothered with dealing with a special session on gun violence, an issue that affects so many people,” added the Lt. Governor. “You aren’t fit to protect the people in the state that you govern, you definitely don’t deserve to be in federal office.”
The second part of WAVE’s Gun Violence Prevention Day of Action mobilized the could hundred participants to walk over to the State Capitol and lobby lawmakers with face-to-face meetings. The Milwaukee Independent followed members of the Milwaukee-based nonprofits Forward Latino and the 80% Coalition as they visited state legislator’s offices to express their support for the Governor’s gun safety bills.