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Wisconsin limits the authority of local governments to regulate firearms

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee city leaders say if gun laws don't change at the state level, they won't change in the city either.

Mayor Tom Barrett says he wants to pass more gun laws like background checks, but Wisconsin, like most U.S. states, doesn't let cities pass their own gun laws. 

After a string of mass shootings around the country, Mayor Barrett says he would like to increase gun control, but he can't.

"Under state law, we are preempted from basically passing any laws that pertain to the city of Milwaukee," he said.

Alderman Michael Murphy was in the Common Council before state law changed in 1995, when the city was able to pass its own gun laws. 

"One could characterize them as stricter, but they were different. And obviously we're a city of the first class in the state of Wisconsin - the only one with the largest population, and issues involving guns in Milwaukee are different than somewhere in Elroy," he said. 

Marquette professor Phil Rocco says Wisconsin is not alone. About 40 states prohibit local gun laws that differ from state statute. 

"In the 1990's, a number of states, many of them at the insistence of the National Rifle Association, passed new preemption laws," Rocco said.

Challenges often lose. In 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down a Madison ordinance prohibiting concealed carry on public transit. Barrett says different cities should have different rule books. 

"There are differences that should be in place between having a gun in Vilas County and having a gun in the city of Milwaukee," he said.

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