Controversial university conceal-carry bill not likely to pass this session

Posted February 3, 2016

A controversial bill that would allow concealed weapons to be carried in university buildings most likely will not pass this legislative session, says the Republican representative who proposed it.

But first-term State Rep. Jesse Kremer (R-Kewaskum) said that if he is re-elected in November, he will re-introduce the legislation.

Kremer introduced Assembly Bill 480 in November. The bill would allow people to conceal and carry guns inside University of Wisconsin System buildings. Currently, people can conceal and carry guns on campus, however guns are not permitted inside any campus buildings. Kremer says that this makes students walking to or from their car, class or apartment “soft targets” because criminals know they are unarmed.

“And now if you allow this on the campuses,” Kremer said, “the bad guys are not gonna know who is carrying and who is not.”

Kremer said he may have introduced the bill at a bad time. It was near the end of the session and the end of a term for the Assembly, with representatives seeking reelection. Some representatives were not interested in discussing a hot-button topic, but would rather focus on more bipartisan issues.

The bill in November was referred to the Committee on Colleges and Universities, but has seen no action since then.

Kremer sees the benefits of this bill as twofold. First, it will provide personal protection. Second, he sees it as a preventive measure in helping stop crime before it happens.

“There are students who do not like the idea of allowing conceal and carry holders on campus, however at the same time, they say they do not feel safe here,” Kremer said. He said he proposed the bill to help fix the problem from a legislative level.

Kremer said he has met with officials and administrators at schools and police departments since he introduced the bill. The UW System President Ray Cross, all of the UW chancellors, and also the UW-Madison police department have released statements opposing the legislation.

At UW-River Falls, Student Senate after a nearly a two-thirds majority vote released a statement saying it opposes the legislation.

Christopher Morgan, Student Senate president, said he remained mostly objective through the process, trying to look at the facts to help make his decision on whether to support the bill.

“I view the lack of evidence that shows that more guns in an environment makes that environment safer,” Morgan said. “There is no statistical evidence that shows that.”

Morgan said his decision to oppose the bill also was based on what student safety officials and people who have dedicated their lives to higher education in the state have said.

Kremer is not giving up.

“This is why I would like to get a hearing on it,” he said.

However, he likely will not get a hearing on the issue before the session ends later this month to give representatives time to campaign for reelection. But Kremer said getting a hearing on the bill is crucial to working towards compromises and changes that are needed to help the bill pass.

Kremer will be on the ballot again in what he says is generally a “red” district this coming November. He says if he is reelected, he plans to reintroduce the bill.

The bill will not be reintroduced without some opposition from Democratic members in the General Assembly. In fact, Rep. Chris Taylor (D-Madison) proposed Assembly Bill 485 that would make it a felony to possess any firearm at a public university, the exact opposite of legislation that Kremer introduced.

Kremer’s legislation is similar to Senate Bill 363, introduced by State Sen. Devin LeMahieu (R-Oostburg), which also was referred to committee but has seen no action.