Wisconsin Concealed Carry Debate Mirrors Ohio

Commentary by Larry S. Moore

It appears the Wisconsin debate regarding concealed carry is following
the same storyline that we dealt with in Ohio. According to the story
in the Madison WI Journal Sentinel, the debate is characterized as, “A
contentious bill that would allow Wisconsin residents to carry concealed
guns has acquired a new layer of controversy - this time over the
state's public records law.” In addition to the normal concealed carry
“blood in the streets” hysteria, it appears there are a couple of layers
of additional debate. The first is over the public records laws and the
second is because one of the bill’s authors, Rep. Scott Gunderson
(R-Waterford), shared a draft copy with an NRA representative. According
to the story the bill is identical to the 2003 version that passed the
legislature but was vetoed by Governor Doyle. The Wisconsin Senate
overrode the veto but the House failed to over ride by one vote. So the
struggle for constitutional rights and the God-given right of
self-defense plods on in Wisconsin.

Of course the press in Wisconsin appears to be in the middle of records
controversy much like Ohio papers have been. Let’s hope our brother and
sister gun owners and ccw advocates fare better in Wisconsin then we did
in Ohio. I pity them having to deal with the likes of the Cleveland
Plain Dealer and Sidney Daily News.

No pro-concealed carry organization is quoted or named in the story. If
anyone reading this post knows of a grass-roots Wisconsin organization,
other than the NRA, which is fighting for their right to carry, please
let us know. We need to support the law-abiding gun owners in Wisconsin
during their fight. As we in Ohio understand, it can be a long
difficult road.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

Gun bill ignites open records dispute

Does sharing draft with outsiders make it public?

[email protected]

Madison - A contentious bill that would allow Wisconsin residents to
carry concealed guns has acquired a new layer of controversy - this time
over the state's public records law. Deputy Attorney General Dan Bach
said legislators must release a draft of the bill because the National
Rifle Association and others outside the Legislature had a hand in
writing the legislation.

But Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford), one of the bill's authors, said
he was refusing to turn it over on the grounds that bills are
confidential until they are formally introduced. Besides, Gunderson
said, no one other than lawmakers and their staffs has seen or worked on
the latest version of the bill.

He said that he gave an early copy of the bill to about four people,
including an NRA representative, who gave him feedback on the measure.
That draft was identical to the version of the bill that passed the
Republican-controlled Legislature in 2003, he said.

Doyle vetoed the 2003 bill. The Senate overrode that veto, but the
Assembly fell one vote short of doing so, allowing Doyle's veto to stand.

Gunderson and Sen. Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) plan to roll out their
latest version of the measure this fall, possibly within the next couple
of weeks.

Gunderson told the Journal Sentinel early this month that under the new
bill, permits allowing people to carry concealed weapons would be issued
by Democratic Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager's office. The earlier
bill would have required county sheriffs to issue the permits, which
many of them cited as a reason for opposing the bill.

Shortly after the story ran, Bach made a written request for copies of
any drafts that Gunderson or Zien had shared with third parties. Bach
said he made the request because the new bill could hurt the Department
of Justice's budget and could make the public less safe.

Gunderson and Zien wrote back, saying they needed to consult with
lawyers and legislative leaders but noting that drafts are not subject
to the public records law.

A hand in the writing
The attorney general is contemplating suing over the matter, Bach said.
Since making the request, he said, he has worried that special interests
are helping to craft the bill.

"I made the request primarily because I wanted to see the bill draft,
and when I got the response that I got from them, it raised concerns . .
. that once again this appears to be a situation where special interests
are being afforded a role in the legislative process and the rest of us
are being frozen out of it," he said.

Bach said he fears lawmakers will call a hearing quickly after
introducing the bill, which would make it difficult for opponents to
challenge the measure because they would have little time to study it.

Gunderson said the bill would be public for at least a week before a
hearing was held. He called Bach's request for the documents premature.

"As soon as we have a final version, we'll share it right away, but we
don't have a final version," he said.
Gunderson said he hopes to unveil the bill within two weeks, which could
blunt the likelihood of a lawsuit.
"This legislation is going to be introduced really soon, so a lot of
this is an argument over not much," said Ron Sklansky, a Legislative
Council attorney. "It is much in terms of the general principle, but it
is not much in terms of this particular issue because once that bill is
introduced, all this stuff is going to be open and there's going to be
plenty of public discussion."

Even if this public record fight ends quickly, the issue is likely to be
one that remains on the Capitol landscape because lawmakers often share
bills with lobbyists, some of whom take an active role in writing bills.

In 2003, Lautenschlager wrote an opinion stating that drafts of bills
must be made public if they have been shared with third parties.

She issued the opinion after environmental groups complained that a
deregulation bill had been given to business groups.

Sklansky countered that legislators need to have a chance to formulate
bills outside the public spotlight. Once bills are introduced, he said,
they get a public airing.

"There is a method of coming up with legislation that is longstanding
and that has been treated as confidential for a long time, and I think
it's that practice the Legislature wants to protect," he said.

But Bob Dreps, a Madison attorney who often represents the Journal
Sentinel and other media outlets in public records cases, said state law
makes no distinction between drafts of bills and drafts of other documents.

"If (a lawmaker) shared it with lobbyists, he can no longer under the
definition of a record contend it's a draft," he said.

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