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Wisconsin Assembly Republicans to vote on bills expanding gun rights

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FILE - Rocker Ted Nugent joined with more than 20 Wisconsin Republican lawmakers in advocating for a package of hunting bills that would, among other things, create a sandhill crane hunting season and allow for concealed weapons to be carried without a permit, on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in the Wisconsin state Assembly chamber in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Assembly is set to vote on a package of Republican-authored bills Thursday that would dramatically expand gun rights in Wisconsin.

The proposals would allow people with concealed carry licenses to go armed on school grounds and in churches attached to private schools; lower the minimum age for obtaining a concealed carry license from 21 to 18; and allow anyone with a concealed carry license from any state to go armed in Wisconsin.

Right now only people with licenses from states that conducts background checks on applicants can carry concealed in Wisconsin.

Assembly approval would send the proposals to the Senate. But the bills almost certainly will meet with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ veto pen if they reach his desk.

Evers called a special legislative session on gun control in 2019 only to see Republicans gavel in and gavel out within seconds. Meanwhile, gun violence continues to increase; more than 1,400 people have been injured in nonfatal shootings in Milwaukee since January 2020, according to the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission.

But Republican legislators face reelection in 10 months and are looking for ways to please their base supporters and give themselves talking points on the campaign trial. Voting on gun rights delivers on both counts regardless of if the bills become law.

The bills’ supporters have long argued that under current law gun owners who forget their weapons in their cars could be charged with a felony if they drive onto school grounds to drop off or pick up their children.

They also contend that 18 year-olds can legally possess handguns so they should be allowed to carry concealed and churchgoers should be allowed to go armed so they can defend themselves if they’re attacked during services. As for out-of-state concealed carry licenses, they say current law is confusing and requires people to navigate a maze of red tape.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) has registered in support of all four bills. An array of organizations have registered in opposition, including the City of Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin: the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

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