MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel on Tuesday said he’s open to allowing teachers and others to be armed in schools. The remarks came six days after a shooting left 17 dead at a high school in Florida.
Schimel’s comments on WTMJ-AM came shortly before Madison high school students joined Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly to call for tighter gun control measures.
The attorney general, who is up for re-election in November, said allowing guns in schools is a “discussion we should have” and ultimately it’s up to the Legislature. The question, he said, is whether state law should continue to prohibit guns in schools or whether the schools should have the option to legalize it.
“Law-abiding gun owners don’t go and shoot up schools,” Schimel said. “When you make a school a gun-free school zone, the only person you’re stopping is the law-abiding gun owner who doesn’t want to get in trouble.”
It was unclear Tuesday afternoon whether the Legislature would take any action on gun control before it wraps up its two-year session. The Assembly’s last floor day is Thursday; the Senate is expected to convene only once next month before lawmakers head home to campaign.
Appearing alongside students from each Madison high school, Assembly Democrats demanded Republicans pass bills to mandate universal background checks, prohibit people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from possessing guns and prohibit bump stocks.
Assembly Republican Speaker Robin Vos said during his own news conference that Democrats were just trying to grab headlines and those three bills lack broad support in the chamber. He added he would be open to discussions about schools arming employees but said that doesn’t mean such a bill is forthcoming.
“If a local school district decides that they would like to have the ability to train a teacher or a security guard or folks to be able to defend themselves if something should happen, I’m opening to talking about that,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to have a bill, doesn’t mean there’s something to propose.”
Republican State Rep. Jesse Kremer, of Kewaskum, on Monday proposed a bill that would allow weapons in private schools that want them. Kremer, who is leaving the Legislature after this year, said it could serve as a pilot project that could be expanded to public schools. Kremer said gun-free school zones “merely serve to concentrate populations of vulnerable targets on school grounds and surrounding areas.”
Vos did not answer questions about Kremer’s bill during his news conference.
Minutes after the Assembly took the floor Tuesday afternoon for what was expected to be a marathon debate over dozens of bills, Republicans found themselves drawn into a gun-control debate anyway after Democrats moved to place the universal background check bill on the day’s calendar.
In a surprise twist Republicans placed the bill on the calendar, then rewrote it on the fly to create a grant program to pay armed school guards. Vos said the measure would protect people.
Democrats howled that Republicans had hijacked the bill. They introduced their own amendment restoring the background checks. The two sides were still fighting over the amendments three hours into the debate.