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'Red flag' law being considered in Wisconsin

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MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- The mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio brought the discussion of gun laws back to the forefront. 

In his address to the nation, President Donald Trump voiced support for so-called red flag laws.

"We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to fire arms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken away through rapid due process," Trump said Monday morning from the White House. "That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders."

Red flag laws currently exist in 15 states and Washington D.C. Those laws allow family members or law enforcement to go to a judge and get an order to have a person temporarily disarmed if they are deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others.

The discussion of passing red flag law legislation in Wisconsin has been happening for months prior to the mass shootings in Texas and Ohio. Attorney General Josh Kaul called for a red flag law to be passed during his Inauguration speech in January. He continues to voice his support.

"We need to take action," Kaul told CBS 58 Monday in his office at the Capitol. "We have lost far too many lives."

Kaul says the number of states passing red flag laws is growing but noted that those have been recent and there is not enough data to see the full effects of the laws in those states. However, he points to Connecticut as an example of how a red flag law not only addresses prevention of mass shootings, but other forms of gun violence as well.

"Connecticut has had a law in place [...] for over 20 years and one of the things that is clear is that it has helped reduce the suicide rate in Connecticut."

Kaul adds that a red flag law in Wisconsin could have a large effect.

"Giving law enforcement and, or a family member the option to go to a judge if there is one of these really dangerous warning signs like somebody who posts a threat online, I think, can help save lives."

Legislation like that faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Legislature. 

In a statement sent to CBS 58, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R - Rochester) said, "I continue to be fearful of taking away anyone's constitutional rights through red flag gun laws."

On Monday, Governor Tony Evers said he is considering options to address the issue including calling a special session.

"We will look at everything we can do to make sure the people of Wisconsin are safe," Evers said. Evers added that he wants to know that Republicans in the Legislature are on board.

"The bottom line is that our Legislature has avoided this issue totally," Evers said at a news conference. "Whether it's a special session or not, we need to know that the other side is going to take this issue seriously."

Rep. Melissa Sargent (D - Madison) introduced a red flag law bill last session but it did not become law. She plans on reintroducing a bill this year.

"This is a really important step," Sargent told CBS 58. "We don't need to be choosing between honoring our Second Amendment heritage in the state of Wisconsin and making sure Wisconsin is a place that is more safe for our kids and families."

Sargent said she has worked with gun owners in shaping the latest version of the bill so that it not only protects people who may be in danger of someone in possession of a firearm, but also protects responsible gun owners. She notes that under the bill, there are consequences for people who make a false report in order to try to have someone's firearms taken away. 

Sargent said she plans on introducing the bill in the next month or sooner.



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