Democrats introduce legislation to fix Rittenhouse 'gun loophole'
MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A group of Democrats want to update the state's gun laws for minors which supporters say could fix a "loophole" that could have prevented Kyle Rittenhouse from carrying a semiautomatic rifle during last year's unrest in Kenosha.
The bill introduced by Democrats from Kenosha would only allow minors to possess a long gun or long barrel rifle if they are legally hunting. Under current law, there's an exception which allows a minor to possess a long gun or rifle if the barrel is longer than 16 inches.
The proposal comes weeks after a jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty on all five charges he faced. During the trail, the defense argued the AR-15 firearm Rittenhouse had the night of the shooting did not fit the definition of a short-barreled shotgun under state statute.
This resulted in Judge Bruce Schroeder dropping Rittenhouse's underage gun possession charge.
State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said the proposal to clarify state law is necessary to prevent minors from "roaming the streets" with long guns.
Republican lawmakers have long resisted reforming Wisconsin's gun laws because they fear the measures would take guns away from law abiding citizens, arguing it infringes on their second amendment rights.
State Sen. Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point) is concerned the bill could impact students who participate in school rifle clubs.
"You could potentially rule out a number of schools that have school sports teams where if they are going out to shoot at clay pigeons and they probably wouldn't be able to carry their shotguns or long guns," said Testin.
One of the bill sponsors, Rep. Tod Ohnstad (D-Kenosha), said the proposal would simply clarify the intent of the law passed decades ago that allows minors to hunt.
"This bill does the same; however, it just doesn’t allow them to carry AR-15’s or other long rifles on our streets," Ohnstad said in a statement. "This is a dangerous loophole and it must be clarified."
Gun Safety Bills
This week, Democrats also introduced a package of bills called the "Safe Storage of Gun Safety."
Some proposals include requiring businesses that sell guns to secure all firearms when the business is unattended, giving customers a secure lockable container or trigger lock for the gun during purchase, and creating a reporting system for lost or stolen guns which would have to be reported within 24 hours.
“Gun violence and accidental shootings continue to pose serious public health and public safety risks,” said Rep. Lisa Subeck (D-Madison). “To make our communities safer, the ‘Safe Storage for Gun Safety’ plan would prevent gun violence and accidental deaths by keeping firearms out of those who simply should not have them."
Republican leaders are unlikely to support the measures due to their resistance on similar proposals introduced in years past.
The range of bills come as President Joe Biden and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers have attempted to tighten gun control laws such as implementing universal background checks and so-called 'red flag' laws that allow a judge to take away guns from those who might be a dangerous to themselves or others.
"Any attempt to water down the second amendment is going to have issues in my perspective," Testin said.