In a 12-hour period in Madison this week there were four shootings. In Milwaukee 44 homicides have been committed this year compared to 21 at the same time last year. 34 of those Milwaukee victims were shot. (Source: City of Milwaukee homicides database). Why are we even discussing the elimination of the 48 hour waiting period for purchasing a gun in Wisconsin?
Proponents of the measure state that the original law’s intent was to allow time to do background checks that can now be done much quicker due to computers, so there is no need for the law anymore. This is not true. According to the 1993-1994 edition of the Wisconsin Blue Book, Act 11 (AB-179) broadened the restrictions on handgun sales by licensed dealers, adding the background checks through the Department of Justice. The 48-hour waiting period became law in the 1970s. That means the law was in place for twenty years before the background check requirement was added. According to the Blue Book, “Formerly, the law merely required a 48-hour waiting period before a dealer could sell such a handgun.” This means that the law enacted back in the 1970s was not to allow time for background checks as proponents of the change have said, but simply as a waiting, or cooling off, period.
There is no reason that an average citizen cannot wait two days to purchase a handgun. Women have to wait 24 hours to obtain an abortion in this state and that is a private medical decision. Drivers have to get a permit and pass a probationary period before being licensed. A waiting period allows time for a person to think about why they are purchasing the handgun and whether they really need it. It allows for a cooling off period if someone wants a handgun for the wrong reasons. If a person really feels they need a handgun a 48-hour waiting period should not be a burden. If they want to purchase it out of a moment of anger because they’re ready to kill someone then the waiting period could save lives. If they want to purchase it due to severe depression or other mental health issues then the waiting period could prevent suicides. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control firearms suicides in 2013 consisted of more than half of all suicides in this country (21,175 of 41,149). (Source: Deaths: Final data for 2013, table 18. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm).
The reality is that the National Rifle Association (NRA) supports any laws that make it easier for anyone to own guns and they do not want any limitations put on that in any way. They don’t understand that all freedoms come with responsibility—and sometimes with restrictions. In America we have freedom of speech but there are limitations on that, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded theater. We have freedom of the press but one can be sued for libel. We have freedom of religion, but there are instances when other laws supersede certain aspects of that freedom. We have the right to own weapons, but there can and should be laws that ensure responsibility. As a society we have to constantly balance our rights against the rights of others. We have to balance rights with responsibilities. We have to take an overarching view of what works best for the most people.
There is no rational reason to eliminate the current waiting period. It has served us well for decades. The reality of this proposed unnecessary change in the law is that those who support it are likely to get a large influx of campaign money from the NRA. These lawmakers are not looking out for their constituents, but for their own political futures. The governor, in particular, who is clearly going to make a run for the presidency, stands to gain a huge infusion of needed cash by showing himself to be a friend of the NRA. I beg you and others in the Senate to stand against this cynical ploy and help maintain a semblance of sanity in this state by rejecting the elimination of the current waiting period for handgun purchases.