Gov. Tony Evers, center, speaks during a press
conference announcing new gun safety reform
legislation, Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in the
Governors conference room in Madison, Wis.
MADISON — Wisconsin Gov.
Tony Evers said Thursday that he would consider requiring
assault weapon owners to sell such guns back to the
government, sparking an instant backlash from Republican
The GOP's top leaders said
Evers finally revealed what they believe is Democrats'
true goal of disarming legal gun owners. They promised
that he would never succeed as long as Republicans control
"With Governor Evers
considering confiscating firearms from law-abiding
citizens, it shows just how radical Democrats have
become," Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said in a joint statement.
candidate and former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke has
been pushing for mandatory assault rifle buybacks over the
last few weeks. O'Rourke's hometown of El Paso was the
site of a mass shooting in August that left 22 people
Republicans have balked at
the idea of forcing people to give up their assault
weapons. Even some Democrats have resisted, saying
O'Rourke's stance could make it harder to negotiate on gun
control legislation with President Donald Trump.
Wisconsin Democrats have
been working to signal to supporters that they're trying
to stiffen gun control laws after a string of mass
shootings around the country in August, including the El
Paso attack, an attack in Dayton, Ohio, and an attack in
Odessa, Texas. Assault-style rifles have been the weapons
of choice in many mass shootings, including those three in
They introduced a universal
background check bill last month and unveiled a red flag
measure Thursday. That bill would allow a judge to seize
people's firearms for up to a year if they pose a threat
to themselves or others. Seventeen states and the District
of Columbia have passed similar red flag bills.
During a news conference in
which the governor touted the red flag bill, he was asked
if he supports mandatory buybacks of assault rifles. Evers
tried to avoid answering directly, saying he's focused on
the red flag proposal and the universal background check
bill. Asked if that meant he didn't support buybacks,
Evers responded: "I'd consider it."
Even though some Democrats
have refused to embrace the idea of mandatory buybacks,
Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke tweeted that at
least Evers was being honest about Democrats' agenda. He
followed that up with a statement saying mandatory
buybacks would never happen as long as Republicans control
"This morning's candid
comments from Governor Evers only further illustrate that
without a strong, Republican-led Legislature, the idea of
involuntary seizure of firearms could easily become a
reality in Wisconsin," Steineke said.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela
Barnes came to Evers' defense, tweeting that Republicans
are "aggressively misleading the public" about
Evers' agenda. He didn't elaborate in the tweet.
Later Thursday, Evers
declined to answer follow-up questions about buybacks as
he left the Capitol rotunda.
Like Republicans across the
country, the Wisconsin GOP has long insisted that
restricting access to guns wouldn't stop mass shootings
and could infringe on Second Amendment rights. They
maintain the answer is focusing on mental health.
Republicans who deviate
from that stance could open themselves up to primary
challengers. Fitzgerald is running to represent a
conservative swath of southeastern Wisconsin in Congress.
It's unclear whether he will face any primary opponents
but any moves that make him look like he supports any gun
control measures could spur opponents to jump into the
race against him.
Vos and Fitzgerald said in
August they don't support the background check bill and
said in their joint statement Thursday that the red flag
bill would violate due process and the constitutional
right to bear arms. They noted Republicans passed a bill
last year creating $100 million in school safety grants.
Vos voted for a bill in
2014 that allows physically or mentally disabled people at
risk of being abused to petition a judge to force an
abuser to surrender his or her guns. The measure cleared
the Senate on a voice vote, which means there was no roll
call that would show how Fitzgerald voted, but as majority
leader he could have blocked the bill from reaching the
Vos and Fitzgerald aides
didn't immediately respond to emails asking why they
supported that bill but not the Democrats' red flag
Thursday marked the
anniversary of a shooting at a software company in the
Madison suburb of Middleton, in which an employee wounded
four of his co-workers before police stormed the building
and killed him.
introduce medical marijuana bill
MADISON, Wis. — A group of lawmakers
launched another push Friday to legalize medical
marijuana in Wisconsin, introducing a bill that would
allow patients to use the drug if they register with the
state and create a licensing system for growers.
Thirty-three states, including neighboring Michigan,
Minnesota and Illinois, have legalized marijuana for
medical purposes and 11, including Illinois, have
legalized it for recreational purposes.
The Wisconsin bill's authors, Sens. Jon Erpenbach and
Patrick Testin and Rep. Chris Taylor, said in a joint
statement that the time has come to lift the state's
restrictions. Erpenbach and Taylor are Democrats. Testin
is a Republican.
"Doctors and patients, not government, should decide if
cannabis is the right treatment," Testin said.
Democrats have tried to get some form of marijuana
legalization passed in every legislative session for the
past decade. Despite Testin's support, the latest bill
faces an uncertain future in the Republican-controlled
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has said he's been open to
legalizing medical marijuana for years and wants to work
on the issue this fall. But Senate Majority Leader Scott
Fitzgerald has said he doesn't support it. Democratic
Gov. Tony Evers proposed legalizing medical marijuana in
the state budget but Republicans removed the provisions
from the final spending plan.
Fitzgerald's spokesman, Alec Zimmerman, had no immediate
comment on the bill. But Fitzgerald's position is
unlikely to change; he's running for Congress next year
in a traditionally conservative southeastern Wisconsin
district and signaling support for marijuana could
motivate potential primary challengers.
Under the bill, patients looking to use marijuana for
medical purposes would have to join a new state
Department of Health Services registry. To qualify for
the registry, a person would have to be suffering from
any of a wide range of ailments, including cancer, AIDS,
Alzheimer's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder,
severe pain and chronic disease. A doctor would have to
diagnose the ailment and explain the potential risks and
benefits of medical marijuana to the registrant before
he or she could join the list.
Applicants would have to pay a $250 registration fee and
an annual $250 fee. The registry would be sealed to the
public. People convicted of a violent felony wouldn't be
allowed to join it.
The bill also would set up a licensing system for
medical marijuana growers through the state Department
of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. A grower
would be defined as someone who grows more than a dozen
marijuana plants. Applicants would have to pay a $250
initial fee and a $5,000 annual fee. Licensees would be
prohibited from growing marijuana for personal or family
Evers tweeted Friday that he supports the bill, pointing
to a Marquette University Law School poll from April
that found that 83% of respondents supported legalizing
"It's time for Wisconsin to do the right thing and allow
doctors to prescribe medication that's best (for) their
patient and their families," Evers wrote.