A lengthy bill to permit residents to carry concealed weapons got more wrinkles by the time it emerged from the Assembly the other day. Sponsors added concessions in an attempt to peel away Democratic opposition and to make the measure veto-proof.
Trouble is, the bill's substance remains the same. More people will be packing heat on the streets - which is likely to cause more harm than good.
The Senate, which approved an earlier version of the bill by a wide margin, is expected to repeat that performance and back the Assembly version. Then it goes to Gov. Jim Doyle, who, thank goodness, has promised to veto the measure, just as he did to a concealed-carry bill that came his way in 2003. The dictates of law and order demand that the Legislature uphold the veto.
The gun lobby's muscle, not popular support, explains why the idea of concealed carry has gotten as far as it has here and elsewhere. Polls in Wisconsin and around the nation have shown majority opposition to the idea. The Missouri Legislature passed concealed carry even though the people had voted it down in a referendum. The Wisconsin Legislature should heed the silent majority, not a clamorous interest group.
Three concessions - lowering the amount of alcohol a gun wielder can consume, widening school safety zones where guns are barred and requiring refresher training courses every five years - did ameliorate a bad bill, but it remains bad. A fourth concession - making the filing of a false application for a concealed-carry license a felony, rather than a misdemeanor - will likely have little deterrence, which is assured more by the certainty of punishment than its severity.
Backers of concealed carry exaggerate its potential for good and dismiss its potential for harm. They don't talk about an incident earlier this year in Tyler, Texas, where, sure enough, a concealed-carry license holder did try to stop a husband who shot his wife outside the courthouse. The good Samaritan was himself shot to death. Nor do they dwell on the 41 arrests of concealed-carry license holders for murder and attempted murder in Texas between 1996 and 2001.
The record since 2001? Nobody knows. The initial study prompted Texas to put information about license holders off limits. Such secrecy would apply in Wisconsin, too - another powerful reason to shoot down this bill. The public deserves to have access to information to determine how well a concealed-carry law is working.