By Kevin Binversie
It does not have to be this complicated.
After fighting years of opposition including multiple vetoes by former Gov. Jim Doyle, a notorious gun rights opponent, and a non-stop disinformation campaign from opponents, Wisconsin this spring left Illinois in the dust and joined 48 other states allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons.
Starting Nov. 1, law-abiding Wisconsin residents can apply for permits to carry either a concealed handgun or concealed knife if they pass a background check.
Another requirement is a training course to ensure those legally carrying concealed weapons know their weapons and know how to use them safely. What’s been fiercely debated during the past few weeks is the length of that training, what is taught and what constitutes a completed course.
You would think those who long opposed concealed carry would be the final hurdle for this right? How, as a final gasp of breath, those who’ve been making their living trying to compare life in a Wisconsin where honest people carry concealed weapons to the Wild West or a war zone would be doing all they can to stop implementation of the law?
Instead Wisconsin Department of Justice and the National Rifle Association are butting heads. Law-abiding people of Wisconsin are caught in the middle.
Earlier this month, the NRA sent a letter to Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen expressing concerns about rules to enforce the new law. At issue is whether DOJ has the authority to create guidelines regarding length of training, licensing certification of trainers and even what qualifies as adequate training.
Debate was put on the back burner last week when Gov. Scott Walker signed onto rules requiring a four-hour training session. Walker did indicate through spokesman Cullen Werwie these are only temporary rules, and he hopes to see no fixed time limit assigned in a more permanent set of DOJ rules.
Calls to the NRA for comment on a suitable level of training for a concealed carry permit were not immediately returned.
All sides are right and all sides are wrong in this argument. DOJ and Wisconsin law enforcement – not to mention all citizens — have a very legitimate concern about ensuring that the hundreds if not thousands of Wisconsinites now legally carrying concealed weapons are familiar with what they hold. Yet a one-size-fits-all approach to training may be unnecessary to the gun owner who’s been using firearms from a young age and has taken a hunter safety course.
NRA and other activists have a legitimate worry that bureaucrats may go too far, creating unwarranted hurdles to a 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. However, they go too far in their recent calls for “constitutional carry,” the idea that the 2nd Amendment gives you the unlimited right to carry a concealed weapon if a law allows it, without any additional training.
From the look of things NRA got a little greedy after years of being denied a concealed carry victory in Wisconsin. Instead of just being happy it finally achieved its policy goal of workable concealed carry legislation, (Warning: Obligatory Bad Gun Pun Coming) NRA shot itself in one foot with its push for “constitutional carry,” and shot the other foot by appearing to balk at any training whatsoever connected to "constitutional carry."
While the NRA is correct on the right to carry a concealed weapon, it is utterly ludicrous in demanding a permit system without some form of training required to ease the minds of law enforcement agencies, cops on the beat and people nervous about who is packing. Best would be a tier system of training in which experience with firearms dictates the amount of time needed.
Let’s be honest here, who would you be more concerned about disrespecting the firearms they are concealing? Someone who’s experienced and spent hours at a shooting range, or someone who’s never picked up a handgun before?
It is high past time the thickheaded arguing among advocates stops. Let the passions subside. Work out a system beneficial to all who want to carry and reassuring to those who do not.
Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native who has been blogging on the state’s political culture for more than eight years. He has served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous Wisconsin Republican campaigns in various capacities, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.