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What the gun bill conceals


It worked well for the GOP at the national level in selling the poorly planned war in Iraq and the inadequate prescription drug program for seniors. So apparently state Sen. Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) must be trying the tactic in Wisconsin: Repeat a bad idea often enough, and eventually the people will buy it - lock, stock and barrel.

Silenced by Gov. Jim Doyle's veto in the first round during the 2003-'04 legislative session, the concealed weapons bill will be reintroduced by Zien later this summer.

Having already shot down the perfect opportunity for a bipartisan solution to the state's budget woes concerning the truly important issues of employment, education and health care, Republican legislators will waste more time and taxpayer dollars to target the gun lobby and gun enthusiasts for support in the 2006 election.

Just like the rush to war in Iraq, this Republican proposal is offered without consideration of its impact on the very people it is supposed to protect. Simply because someone may pass a set of regulations and background checks, both of which are yet to be defined, does not mean that the person will be able to control himself once a gun is close at hand.

Conversely, the bill is more likely to encourage would-be vigilantes.

Things are scary enough. Drive-by shootings, armed robberies, road rage, bar brawls, revenge murders, violations of restraining orders and stray bullets killing bystanders have become common. Can permit regulations protect law-abiding citizens from such acts? No, and a concealed weapons law could complicate or escalate any of these situations.

Legalizing the right to carry a concealed weapon would only increase the incidence of ill-advised retaliations, overreaction to non-life threatening circumstances and gun accidents.

Even the military, when not in combat, keeps weapons locked up to avoid just such incidents. Recent events have had police using deadly force against unarmed people who appeared to be reaching for a gun. If police think everyone might be carrying a concealed weapon, they might be more inclined to shoot first and ask questions later.

Criminals use the element of surprise. If attacked, who would have time to retrieve a gun from a glove compartment, a holster, a back pocket or - worse - from the bottom of a purse? More likely, the attacker would overpower the victim, possibly using the victim's own weapon during the crime.

What regulation can protect the unsuspecting person from a heretofore unknown assailant? Who can control the passions of others in the heat of the moment; the person with a hair-trigger anger management problem; the drunk who fights perceived enemies; the domestic abuser who avoids prosecution by intimidating his victim; or the mild-mannered religious zealot who goes home to get a gun, returns to a church service and shoots up the congregation from the back of a hotel banquet room? These are all situations that could be made worse by a concealed weapons law.

The fact that the administration of the regulatory aspects of the bill, as well as the funding of its implementation, have not yet been decided after more than a year invites the perception that the legislators are rushing this through to hide a dismal legislative record.

The bill plays Russian roulette with the lives of everyday citizens. It's a clay pigeon for Republicans who know that Democrat Doyle will veto the bill again.

Zien and his Republican posse, rather than gunning for a serious anti-crime bill, will instead go fishing this summer, trolling for the gun lobby votes, hoping that an unwitting public will swallow the bait - hook, line and sinker.

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