Legislators’ proposal would allow concealed weapons in UW buildings

Posted October 27, 2015

Two Wisconsin Republican legislators are proposing a bill that would allow UW System students, faculty and staff to carry concealed weapons inside buildings on campuses of public colleges or universities.

Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) and Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg) want to change the current law that allows people to carry concealed weapons on the grounds of public colleges and universities, but gives those institutions the right to ban guns from buildings.

The proposal comes just a few weeks after the community college shooting in Oregon, but Kremer said that that incident had nothing to do with it. Kremer said a string of violent crimes happened close to the campus of UW-Milwaukee in a one-week stretch in April, and that led him to look into the law.

“This prompted me into looking what we allow on our campuses and what we do on our campuses right now,” Kremer said.

The reason why he and LeMahieu proposed the bill is twofold: protection and prevention. He does not think that the community should treat students as lesser citizens just because they are attending college.

“They should still be allowed to protect themselves and not have their Second Amendment rights stomped on,” Kremer said. “I believe if criminals know that there could be students around campus conceal-carrying guns that could prevent those criminals from committing crimes against defenseless individuals.”

The current law allows those who have a concealed carry license to conceal-carry guns on the grounds of any public college or university in Wisconsin. However, those colleges and universities may opt to ban guns from buildings, which the UW System campuses has done, posting signs at entrances.

The concealed carry law in Wisconsin allows only people who are over the age of 21 to be eligible to pursue a concealed-carry license, and the fact that people have to be 21 or older to have a concealed-carry license limits the amount of people that can conceal-carry on a college or university campus because half of the students are under the age of 21.

“The effect of the current law is that nobody is allowed to carry on the grounds, and that about half of the students on a campus are under the age of 21,” Kremer said. “People are not going to conceal-carry on the grounds if they are not allowed to conceal-carry into the buildings.”

Kremer said there has been a mixed reaction to the proposal.

UW System President Ray Cross and campus chancellors released a statement Oct. 13 opposing the proposal.

“We have significant concerns and questions with this proposal and cannot currently support it,” the statement read. “We are, however, actively engaged in a dialogue with the legislative authors, Regents, and campus police professionals to ensure our concerns are addressed.”

UW-River Falls Chief of Police Karl Fleury said he thinks that anytime there is the potential to introduce more firearms on campus there is a concern for the students and police officers.

“If we are presented with a situation where there are two parties with weapons we don’t know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy,” Fleury said. “We don’t know if a person has a concealed-carry permit, so that creates concern and confusion for that situation.”

Fleury said that, if the bill passed, the UWRF Police Department would make the necessary adjustments to the way it operates. If the bill does not pass, the police department will keep the same procedures that it currently uses.