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Legislatively Speaking

Lena C. Taylor

This week, the Governor called a special session of the legislature to take up the issue of gun violence. The session included two legislative proposals to address the expansion of background checks and a red flag law, which would provide an opportunity for family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to intervene, if they suspect that a gun owner poses a threat to themselves or others.

Despite evidence that mass shootings are becoming deadlier and occurring at unprecedented rates, Wisconsin Republicans have made it clear that they refuse to participate in this special session or in any meaningful way on responsible gun ownership. Yet, the crisis of gun violence facing our community and country cannot be denied. We’ve all seen the headlines, felt the overwhelming sense of loss and frustration, or at the very least, know someone who has. Unfazed, my Republican colleagues, have opted to keep their head in the sand and refused to participate in the special session.

To be clear, my colleagues on the right, aren’t opposed to special sessions. After all, since the state’s beginning, there have been more than 90 special sessions convened. Republicans certainly didn’t hesitate to call such a session when it meant stripping the incoming Governor and Attorney General of certain powers. But when asked to do the work to reduce the years of bloodshed across our communities, in our schools, at movie theaters, houses of worship and the like, Republicans continue to ignore the specific wishes of their constituents. The reality is that gun violence is one of the biggest public health issues facing our nation today.

But you have to ask how do they ignore the fact that since 2012, nearly 2,600 people have been killed in mass shootings and more that 9,500 people have been wounded. At what point are Republicans, both locally and nationally, willing to respect the wishes of the majority of Americans. In Wisconsin, 80% of residents support expanded background checks. However, that message appears to be falling on deaf ears.

Therefore, we are forced to ask some difficult questions. If Republicans are not listening to the majority of people who put them in office, then who are they listening to? If they believe in their position, then why aren’t they willing to debate the issue in the session? If they have an argument for not protecting our children from senseless gun violence, then why won’t they make their case? Disagreeing with these proposals are one thing. However, refusing to even show up and have the discussion is not only irresponsible, it is a decision that could cost lives. None of us should be willing to pay that price.

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