Empower Wisconsin | Feb. 13, 2020
By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Aiming to protect places of worship from violence, Republican lawmakers are proposing a bill that affirms the rights of concealed carry permit holders to arm themselves in centers of faith.
The legislation follows recently enacted laws in Indiana and Texas that specifically allow parishioners to carry in places of worship. The law saved untold lives in Texas, when a gunman who opened fire in the sanctuary of the West Freeway Church of Christ was shot and killed by an armed worshipper.
Wisconsin has experienced its own tragedies in the growing list of attacks on places of worship. In 2012, a gunman killed six people at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek. Four people were injured, including the temple president and a responding police officer.
The Wisconsin bill would apply to all places of worship, including those within school zones. Current state law prohibits church-goers within a school zone from carrying a gun — from exercising the right to protect themselves and their fellow worshippers.
“This bill would allow worshippers to decide how best to protect themselves from those who intend to do them harm — in keeping with their constitutional right of free exercise,” states a legislative memo seeking co-sponsorship.
Faith centers also would have the right to post signs prohibiting concealed carry on the premises. Violators would be subject to the same penalties under current law.
Sen. David Craig (R-Town of Vernon), one of the bill’s co-authors, said the legislation upholds some of the most basic rights under the constitution.
“Regardless of where your place of worship is, you should have every right to protect yourself just like every other person who worships in every other place in Wisconsin,” Craig said.
The bill, as of Wednesday, had one Democrat co-sponsor. Rep. Nick Milroy of South Range, in Wisconsin’s far north, signed on, according to Craig.
Craig acknowledges the bill faces an uphill battle with an abbreviated floor session schedule. Even if it passes, Gov. Tony Evers is a gun-control Democrat not likely to assist Second Amendment rights.
But the West Freeway Church of Christ incident underscored the importance of concealed carry. Gun control liberals mocked the Texas law just weeks before the armed church-goer saved the lives of worshippers from a crazed gunman.
“We have learned many times over that there is no such thing as a gun free zone. Those with evil intentions will violate the law and carry out their heinous acts no matter what,” Texas state Sen. Donna Campbell, co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “It makes no sense to disarm the good guys and leave law-abiding citizens defenseless where violent offenders break the law to do great harm.”