WASHINGTON — The first new federal gun safety law in decades passed without any support from Wisconsin Republicans in Congress.
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed the bill into law saying he hopes to save lives. It was a rare moment of consensus around gun legislation in Washington just over a month after deadly shootings in Buffalo, New York and at an elementary school in Texas.
“We know this bill will save lives,” said Nicholas Matuszewski, policy and strategic partnerships associate for Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE). “And we know that’s a step in the right direction. It is a progressive step. But it’s a compromise. And that’s fine, but we have to follow through and get more because it’s not going to be enough.
The bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides $750 million for crisis intervention, school safety and mental health programs. Some of the things WAVE, the non-profit gun violence prevention organization, has been researching for years.
But Matuszewski fears Republican state lawmakers will use the money to implement Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), also known as red flag laws, which allow firearms to be removed from fire to people who represent a danger.
“The way the bill was passed and drafted, there are too many other ways to spend the funding,” he said. “So if you’re a state that doesn’t want to enact ERPO laws, you can use the funding for drug rehabilitation courts or veterans courts or things like that.”
Although the state legislature is adjourned for the session, the way Republican lawmakers from Wisconsin to Washington view the legislation could telegraph the temperature.
All six GOP members voted against the bill which was also opposed by the NRA.
“We have a very big crime problem here in America and this hasn’t solved that problem,” said Rep. Tom Tiffany, R-Minocqua. “Also, the red flag laws that were proposed there, I think are unconstitutional. And again, they’re not going to address the problem that we have.
Congressman Tiffany says he would rather see tougher penalties for criminals and more spending to strengthen schools.
“It’s more important to get it right than to be able to say ‘do something, we didn’t get it right,” he said. “And that won’t stop the next school shooting. “