Senate Republicans convene, adjourn special session on gun laws

Published: Nov. 7, 2019 at 7:00 AM CST
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The Republican leader of the Wisconsin Senate gaveled into a special session on gun control and ended it 30 seconds later.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald took the action in an empty Senate chamber Thursday night shortly after 8 p.m. He has long opposed the special session called by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers to pass a universal background check and "red flag" bill.

Gov. Tony Evers, the state attorney general, gun control advocates and Democratic lawmakers all urged Republicans to vote on the bills. But Republicans ignored them.

The Assembly planned to take similar action, quickly convening and adjourning the special session, later Thursday night.

Democrats say Republicans are ignoring what the public wants and putting public safety at risk.

Evers says Republicans in the Legislature just told a majority of Wisconsin residents to "go jump in a lake" by not voting on a pair of gun control measures.

Evers cited polls showing more than 80% support for the issues and said Republicans didn't have the courage to take a vote. Evers says Republicans "did so at their own peril" because now they have to explain their action to voters.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos accused Evers of playing politics and said he wasn't going to vote on bills he knew wouldn't pass.

After beginning and ending the session to an empty Senate Chambers, Fitzgerald released a statement:

Gun control advocates rallied in Madison ahead of the special legislative session on gun restrictions.

Groups including Moms Demand Action, Doctors for America and the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee will hold news conferences and rally at the state Capitol ahead of the session.

"I hope Sen. Fitzgerald will hold the vote," said Debra Gillespie the Founder of Mothers Against Gun Violence. "I ask Wisconsinites, especially the constituents of Sen. Fitzgerald, to urge him to hold this vote. This is some life-saving legislation."

"These are moderate commonsense proposals,"said Darryl Morin of Forward Latino. "You do not play politics with people's lives and that's why we are all here together. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, some grieving, to demand that today this Senate, this Assembly, to take a vote on these measures."

Evers sent Senator Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Vos a letter Thursday morning blasting them for ignoring the "will of the people" and demanded a vote. He said Wisconsinites deserve to know where their legislators stand on the bills.

"This is not figuring a way to bring people together. This is not trying to say where we can find common ground. You heard today we picked topics that we hope are bipartisan that had universal almost unanimous votes on every vote we are putting on the calendar today," said Vos. "He doesn't want to focus on where the vast majority of the issue really lies and that’s trying to deal with suicide as a mental health issue. I think Gov. Evers playing politics with us is really sad, I certainly think that’s what he’s indicated over and over again, it’s all about the politics.”

Vos added Republicans who support the Second Amendment won't support the bills because "red flag" laws take firearms away from people without any due process.

Vos is hoping several measures on suicide prevention gets passed, and believe they will be more effective than allowing judges to take away guns from people deemed a threat.

One of the Republican proposals up for an Assembly vote Thursday would create a grant program to pay gun shop owners to store guns voluntarily turned over by gun owners.

Another bill up for a vote would create a new suicide prevention program within the state Department of Health Services.