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Law enforcement leaders support AG’s call for ‘red flag’ law

MADISON (WKOW) — As federal lawmakers introduce a bill to expand background checks on gun sales, Wisconsin’s attorney general is calling for new measures to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them.

During the inauguration, Attorney General Josh Kaul said he wants a red flag law in Wisconsin.

“That will allow law enforcement or family members to go to a judge and ensure that somebody who is a threat to themselves or others is temporarily disarmed,” he said during his speech at the state Capitol on Monday.

Middleton Police Chief Chuck Foulke says right now, officers don’t have a lot of options to intervene if a loved one is worried someone could harm themselves or others.

“Sometimes we’ll talk our way into it, just ask people if we can have [a gun] for a day or two, or a week and let things cool off,” he told 27 News. “Sometimes we can talk ourselves into being able to have those firearms surrendered, but as far as being able to seize firearms, we’re pretty limited on what we can do.”

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney says it would be one more step in tackling a growing problem of gun crimes committed by people with mental health issues, allowing law enforcement to hold the guns for safe-keeping until an issue is resolved. It would be similar to restraining order protections.

“I fully support his message and look forward as a law enforcement leader in Dane County and across the state and actually across the country to find ways to help bring that to fruition,” he said.

Mahoney also believes a federal red flag measure could help keep people from even buying guns if they’re a risk, by allowing a concerned mental health specialist to contact the national office that handles background checks.

But Wisconsin gun rights advocates believe a red flag law goes too far.

“Red flag laws, I mean, that is just a blatant attempt to take away due process from an individual,” said Nik Clark, president of a group called Wisconsin Carry.

Thirteen other states have passed similar laws. Many came after the Parkland, Florida school shooting in February 2018.

Gov. Tony Evers said Wednesday he would support Kaul’s effort, if lawmakers got on board.

“If we have the documentation and the ability to prove that someone is incapable of owning and using a firearm that that be taken into consideration,” he said.

A spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos tells 27 News the speaker is open to considering the idea, but he’s concerned with taking away the constitutional rights of gun owners. He sees the proposal as more of a political move, because the attorney general has not reached out to discuss the idea yet.

Jennifer Kliese

Weekend Anchor and Reporter, 27 News

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