The Republicans are “blockheads.” The Democrats are spewing “BS.”
Those were some of the more provocative insults tossed back and forth between Wisconsin lawmakers this week. The name-calling was unfortunate because it won’t encourage compromise or progress. Yet we’re glad the debate occurred. And we heard something amid the hours of acrimony over Wisconsin’s gun laws that shouldn’t be missed: some agreement.
State leaders should capitalize on that, rather than using the emotional issue to fire up their most loyal supporters and impress the interest groups who fund their campaigns.
At issue was a sensible and relatively simple bill, sponsored by Democrats, to require universal background checks on virtually all gun purchases in Wisconsin. Universal background checks by themselves won’t solve the problem of mass shootings that kill innocent people with frightening regularity, including the 17 at a Florida high school last week.
But closing a loophole that allows the sale of high-powered firearms at gun shows and online without background checks would make it harder for deranged people to arm themselves and do harm. Any hassle a background check might cause some law-abiding citizens will be well worth the potential reduction in terrible violence.
Gov. Scott Walker should call a special session if that’s what it takes to deal with this challenge in a meaningful way.
Republicans who run the state Assembly objected to universal background checks Tuesday because, they said, the proposal wasn’t on the Assembly agenda and hadn’t made it through a key committee. But that’s only because the Democratic proposal has been languishing for a year without a public hearing or vote.
Rep. Terese Berceau, D-Madison, a lead sponsor of universal checks, castigated her Republican colleagues for discarding the measure.“Everybody knows that you’re avoiding a vote on background checks,” Berceau said. “You’re acting like blockheads, and it’s not working to your advantage.”
The name-calling didn’t sit well with Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, who responded: “This deplorable blockhead believes in background checks,” but not when such a proposal is pulled to the Assembly floor without being properly vetted, she added. “We want to be thoughtful in the process of addressing the murderers that walk into our school and kill our kids,” she said. “I’m not going to sit back and listen to the BS.”
We definitely need more listening, because if you listen closely, Bernier sounds like she supports more consistent background checks. So let’s get that done.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL