A hidden mess

By | November 2, 2011

As recently as last week, state officials were at odds about whether hunting rifles, visible or concealed, were permissible in some state buildings. Dana Brueck, a spokeswoman for Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday that under the law, people with concealed carry permits can bring weapons into public buildings, including handguns, hunting rifles and some semiautomatic assault rifles.

This was news to other state officials, who believed carrying rifles into public buildings was prohibited.

Many other concerns exist, including training necessary to carry a concealed weapon. Under the state guidelines, anyone who has passed a hunter education class can receive a concealed carry permit. This loose qualification for carrying a concealed handgun has even been criticized by certified firearms instructors.

Over the objections of religious leaders, including the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, the state Legislature and Gov. Scott Walker passed Wisconsin Act 35 without including houses of worship in the short list of places concealed weapons are not allowed.

According to the new law, concealed weapons are prohibited in courthouses, police stations, prisons, state public defender offices and mental institutions. Churches and other religious institutions like Catholic hospitals and colleges will have to post appropriate signs at each building entrance if they choose to ban concealed weapons.

St. Norbert College, like all state public and private colleges and universities, is prohibiting concealed weapons inside its buildings. The college was required to design, create and post hundreds of five-by-seven-inch signs on doors at every entrance on campus — at a $3,500 cost the school had to absorb.

Questions still remain regarding liability.

If a gun is discharged by someone with a concealed carry permit inside of a church that does not prohibit concealed weapons, the church is not liable, according to the law. If, however, the same thing happens in a church with posted signs, churches lose their blanket immunity from civil lawsuits. In addition, if a church has a school on its premises, the new law does not offer clear guidelines on whether that church is exempt, as is the school, from the concealed carry law.

In another example of twisted logic, Gov. Walker said concealed guns will be allowed on the Assembly floor and the Assembly viewing galleries. At the same time, videotaping and holding up signs in the Assembly gallery is now illegal.

Expediency is often a recipe for disaster. Let’s hope and pray that this new concealed carry handgun law does not lead to fatal disasters.

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