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Senate's gun veto override rests on 4

Doyle's rejection sends bill back to Legislature

By STEVEN WALTERS
[email protected]

Last Updated: Nov. 18, 2003

Madison - Gov. Jim Doyle's veto of a concealed weapons bill Tuesday shot the emotional issue back to four Senate Democrats, who will decide whether the Senate takes the first step toward overriding the governor.

The four Democrats - Bob Wirch of Kenosha, Julie Lassa of Stevens Point, Mark Meyer of La Crosse and Russ Decker of Schofield - weren't saying Tuesday how they will vote when the Senate takes up the governor's veto in December.

It will take 22 of the 33 senators to override the veto, and all 18 Republicans are expected to again back legalizing concealed weapons, as are two other Democrats besides the four in question. The 99-member Assembly will get a chance to override the governor only if the Senate does so first.

No Legislature has overridden a veto of a Wisconsin governor since October 1985.

"It'll be a 'game day' decision," said Wirch, who vowed to "listen to everyone" in his district on the issue over the next few weeks.

Lassa, Decker and Meyer did not return calls Tuesday, but each said recently that they had not decided whether to cast a second vote for a concealed weapons law that would cross their party's leader and the first Democratic governor in 16 years.

How the four Democrats ultimately vote will play a role in their political futures, because Wirch, Lassa and Meyer are up for re-election next year and the concealed weapons bill is the top Wisconsin priority of the National Rifle Association - a group Doyle called an "extremist special-interest group" Tuesday.

The two other Democrats who voted to repeal the 1870 ban on concealed weapons - Sen. Jeff Plale of South Milwaukee and Roger Breske of Eland - have said they will vote to overturn the governor's veto.

It will be the fourth Senate vote this year to override Doyle. The Assembly has tried to override a veto once this year.

Both sides predicted victory Tuesday.

"I don't think I'm going to be overridden," said Doyle, who twice referred to himself as "the grown-up" whose vetoes have been required to kill excessive changes passed by Republicans who control the Legislature.

Public safety cited

As he posed for news photographers, Doyle announced his veto in front of about 60 uniformed sheriffs, deputies, police officers and state troopers at Dane County Law Enforcement Training Center.

He then attended a Milwaukee rally organized to send the same message: Wisconsin residents will not be safer if thousands of adults apply for and receive permits to carry handguns into shopping malls, public libraries, the state Capitol and Milwaukee's Summerfest grounds.

Also cheering the veto at the Madison-area rally were Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard and Democratic Senate Leader Jon Erpenbach of Middleton.

It will be Erpenbach's task to persuade three of the four Democratic senators whose positions remain in doubt not to vote against the governor.

Erpenbach predicted that Doyle's decision to kill the bill would ultimately stand.

But Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer (R-West Bend) said it would be "political suicide" for any of the Democrats who voted to legalize concealed weapons to switch on a second vote. The Legislature is next scheduled to be in session during the week of Dec. 1.

Noting the 24-8 Senate vote to legalize concealed weapons, Panzer said, "I would assume an override is inevitable." A companion override vote in the Assembly might be a little more difficult, however - the original vote on the bill there was 64-35, less than the two-thirds that would be needed to complete the override.

Protection necessary

The Senate sponsor of the bill, Sen. Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire), said Doyle's veto protects criminals who carried out more than 12,000 violent crimes in Wisconsin last year.

"Apparently, Governor Doyle thinks that is an acceptable level of victims," Zien said.

Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Kansas and Nebraska are the only five states that don't allow citizens to carry concealed weapons.

The bill became a priority of Republican legislators this year after the state Supreme Court ruled that current law allows homeowners and business owners to keep handguns to defend their property.

Gunderson, Zien and NRA lobbyists say citizens need the ability to defend themselves, their families and their property.

But Doyle and opponents of the bill said Wisconsin would be a much more dangerous place if people carry concealed handguns, stun guns, knives or billy clubs in public.

"It is a testament to the people of Wisconsin that our state is not only one of the safest places to live in the country, but also has a proud tradition of responsible gun ownership and use," Doyle said.

"Just as our state's ban on concealed weapons has not interfered with Wisconsin traditions, Wisconsin's gun owners will not be harmed in any way by rejection of this legislation."

Doyle also said the bill would pose a possible illegal burden on private businesses owners. They would have to post signs telling customers not to carry guns in their stores and then "orally and personally" inform them of that before anyone could be convicted of breaking the law.

It would be "flat-out dangerous" for store owners to ask an armed customer to disarm, the governor said.

Doyle also said the measure would cost the state's 72 sheriffs about $3.7 million to administer and the state Justice Department about $1.8 million to do first-year criminal background checks on applicants for concealed weapons permits.

The veto was praised by the National Association of Social Workers; the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence; a group of owners of Wisconsin Dells-area businesses; law-enforcement groups that included the Wisconsin Troopers' Association and the Wisconsin Sheriffs & Deputy Sheriffs Association; the Wisconsin Counties Association; and the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families.

What's Next

The State Senate will vote, probably in December, on whether to override the concealed-carry veto. A two-thirds vote of the 33 senators is required to do so. The original Senate vote to pass the bill was 24-8.
If the Senate overrides, a similar vote will be held in the 99-member Assembly. A two-thirds vote also is required there. The original Assembly vote to pass the bill was 64-35.

From the Nov. 19, 2003 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Good luck, Wisconsin! - sensop
 
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