State Rep. David Bowen

Crisis of Gun Violence Calls for Action

City is hurting and common sense reforms by legislature could help.

By - Dec 23rd, 2015 03:36 pm
The police were able to prevent a likely shootout on the near North Side where one criminal was armed with several guns and tons of ammunition supplied by his brother, who had a CCW permit. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Police Department.

The police were able to prevent a likely shootout on the near North Side where one criminal was armed with several guns and tons of ammunition supplied by his brother, who had a CCW permit. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Police Department.

Preparing this column gave me a great opportunity to reflect on my first year serving in the state Assembly. As I did so, I realized there were countless topics I could write about that are urgent matters for Milwaukee and for our state, most of which, unfortunately, have been left by current Republican leadership for future legislatures and governors to address. Topics that immediately came to mind were the enormous racial inequities in incarceration, a re-commitment to adequately funding our public schools and universities, ensuring everyone has access to quality healthcare, solving our transportation and infrastructure borrowing problem, and simply making sure kids and families have access to food and shelter – all issues with potential solutions if we had leaders willing to make tough decisions.

But the topic that struck me as perhaps the fastest growing crisis we face as a community is the epidemic of gun violence that has grown out of control, plaguing us both locally and throughout our country.

Each time there is a mass shooting in our country, a media firestorm thankfully still exists to get policymakers to go on record. Some offer genuine sympathy for victims, refuse to accept this as commonplace, and discuss some of the tools that exist to actually do something about this crisis. Others offer a platitude of “thoughts and prayers,” a brief acknowledgement of the suffering these families endure that at best can be characterized as superficial when unaccompanied by efforts to solve the problem.

Yet in smaller scale shootings involving one, two, maybe three victims, we no longer hear a politician’s refusal to allow this to become commonplace – because it has. Promises of prayer without action are no longer heard. It’s just another day in the life to see a fleeting headline in local papers that gun violence has yet again taken precious lives right here in our city.

On July 10, after 10 shooting deaths in just eight days that included the deaths of two young boys aged 13 and 14, I wrote a letter to Governor Walker asking that he declare a state of emergency in Milwaukee and proposing that he coordinate with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to deploy trauma informed care specialists, psychologists, and grief counselors to the neighborhoods traumatized by this bloodshed.

My letter went without response as Governor Walker stayed the course on his policy of turning a blind eye toward the suffering in his state’s largest city, one he served as Milwaukee County Executive for eight long years.

According to the Journal Sentinel’s Homicide Tracker, 88 homicides had occurred in Milwaukee by July 10 – surpassing 2014’s total of 87 just over halfway through the year.

It’s no secret that the governor had other priorities at the time – a few days after receiving my letter, he made his doomed presidential run official. During those 71 days, Walker logged a total of 58 hours doing actual work as governor. Once his failed campaign had come and gone, Walker returned home to advance an aggressive agenda. His priorities: exempting corrupt politicians from John Doe investigations, replacing the Government Accountability Board with partisan appointees, and making it easier for dark money to influence elections in Wisconsin.

That is, making it easier for millions of dollars to flow from undisclosed donors via groups like the NRA who already have a stranglehold on legislators who might otherwise make efforts to pass even the slightest reforms to ensure firearms don’t get into the wrong hands.

The commonsense reforms we could make are not extreme. Some, like simply requiring background checks for nearly all transactions or a brief waiting period, have overwhelming public support, including majority support from members of the NRA. Even conservative US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a majority opinion that “like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapons whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Despite vast support from their members and commonsense remarks from folks like Justice Scalia, the NRA and Republican elected officials remain committed to obstructing basic, life-saving reforms.

As I write this column, Journal Sentinel’s unofficial tally shows 150 homicides have occurred in Milwaukee in 2015, 124 of which were carried out using firearms. We are closing in on the record 165 homicides recorded in 1991, yet our governor and Republican legislators continue to take pride in serving the pro-death agenda of the NRA by doing exactly what the NRA demands of them – nothing.

I hope you’ll join me in refusing to give up on ending the bloodshed in our community.

36 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Crisis of Gun Violence Calls for Action”

  1. Tom Bosworth says:

    Waiting periods: By what mechanism would waiting periods prevent murders of criminals by criminals?

    Background checks: By what mechanism would background checks prevent criminals from getting guns from other criminals?

    Until you can show us how such laws would decrease gun acquisition by actual criminals, they do not rise to the level of common sense. I am willing to listen to arguments, but the people who commit the murders are mostly already criminals, and the people who call for common sense gun controls routinely fail to show how their proposals would have prevented any of the murders they cite as the reason such laws are needed.

    Show why your proposals would have prevented any of the specific killings, and I’ll listen.

    Otherwise, you are doing nothing but attacking me for the joy of lashing out at innocent people who are not murdering other innocent people or even murdering other criminals..

    Tom Bosworth

  2. Gary Rebholz says:

    I use the “waiting period” technique whenever I’m thinking about making a serious purchase or even on an occasional shopping trip. A gun is a serious purchase as a “tool”, and it has one purpose; you wouldn’t use it to stir something, or dig up something in the garden.
    I can think of 3 occasions from my childhood when guns caused damage of one sort or another: a kid was hit while playing with a bb gun (luckily, not in the face and this occurred more often than I would know); a teenager using a 22 to shoot songbirds as targets in Wisconsin’s northwoods (he was bored); a verbally violent argument which led to a WWII service revolver pulled out of safe-keeping and used to make a threatening point (probably unloaded and maybe inopperable, but the point was made).
    I’m a long-time Milwaukee resident, and lived in the city of Chicago for 7 years, but I personally can’t think of a single reason that would cause me to want to buy a gun. Given the seriousness of the purchase of that kind of a deadly or damaging tool, I will always vote for waiting periods and background checks. If they don’t already exist, I’d even vote for age limit restrictions so adults always have to take the responsibility for incidents involving minors.

  3. Tom Bosworth says:

    Hi Gary, How would waiting periods and/or background checks have affected any of your examples?

    If you can’t provide any connection, why shouldn’t people interpret what you say as “I dislike guns, therefore I want to make it as hard as possible for other people to act on their disagreement with me”?

    It gets back to my first comment: I am willing to listen if you are willing to show how your proposals would have affected the specific cases you mention.

    “We have to do something” is not an argument.

  4. Charles says:

    Car thieves will always find a way to steal cars. Therefore why bother with common sense actions like locks and keys? We need a fluid system so that everybody has transportation. So, let’s remove all restrictions on cars, including license plates, drivers’ licenses and automobile registration. If we remove the VIN# then we will have a totally free system in which even a child can drive himself to school. Speed limits in the city are a waste of time because they prevent punctuality for working people. If we restrict cars, then only crooks will have cars. We need good guys with cars. Don’t blame the cars for the actions of a few bad apples. Remember, cars don’t steal cars, people do.

  5. Phil Stinsel says:

    Doesn’t Chicago has pretty much the restrictions Mr. Bowen is suggesting? I guess all the carnage there is…. Walker’s fault?
    Certainly not the fault of people pulling the trigger.

  6. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Seldom read so much baloney in one place. 90% of this is worthless pablum. Everyone knows those things do not work look at the places where they are in service like Baltimore, NY, LA, DC, Chicago.
    Want to solve problem. First put the black and white thugs in jail, till they are old. Next adopt Glen Frankovis’s and David Clarke’s police and personal protection ideas. Get the guns from the felons and teach the inner city kids to read, and from families, churches.

  7. Charles Trimberger says:

    The number if shootings and killings in Milwaukee didn’t reach their current levels until it became easy for almost anybody to get a gun. As Ed Flynn, Chief of Police, put it, “There are too many clowns with guns.” Milwaukee was a reasonably safe city until easy access to guns, was started by Scott Walker. Now we have innocent babies dying as they play with grandparents on their living room floors. Easy access has created a deathly situation. Now that the door has been opened, it may be too late. I hope not.

    Larger cities with greater deterioration may have reached a critical mass of guns and poverty the makes their problems harder to manage. It’s not too late for Milwaukee and Wisconsin, I hope.

    It is noteworthy that Governor Walker refuses to help, by providing data on gun purchases, so that the data can be researched. Is he afraid of the truth? Or are conservative talking points more important than the common good? Is he afraid of a real debate that would ensue if the data were available?

    Can you imagine the chaos that would prevail if a similar situation of dysregulation existed with automobiles? Utilitarian things that can pose a danger, must be regulated.

    btw, is the Wisconsin Conservative Digest implying gun control is a good thing when it says “get the guns from the felons?”

  8. Milwaukeean says:

    Tom Bosworth, with the utmost respect, please tell us why it is as equally important for you to own assault rifles (they are guns afterall, right)?

    Tell us why gun shows around this country are not regulated?

    Tell us why illegal immigrants are acquiring guns from legal citizens?

    Tell us why it is important for you to own a gun that can fire off thousands of rounds per minute?

    If you feel carrying a gun will protect you from the thugs in Milwaukee, please provide one experience where your gun will protect you from a thug who already has their gun loaded and aimed at you ready to fire – OR, you fall victim to being in the line of unintended gun fire.

    When you answer those questions, perhaps you will have answered the questions to which you have posted on 12/23/15.

    Otherwise, sensible gun control to keep guns out of the hands of folks who should not have them, is well, sensible. Why? Because non-sensible people use guns to kill people, that’s why.

    The alternative is to eliminate non-sensible people.

    How do you suggest doing that if you are against sensible gun control?

  9. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    What we want is violence control, not taking guns away from citizens or the dumb things advocated that we know will do nothing.
    Violence can only be controlled by controlling the thugs in society white or black.
    if you take away Milwaukee and madison go to the out areas of state where there are far more guns per capita, and there are few murders even though guns are there.
    Few murders are done with semi auto rifles, shot guns more are sued in defense of life. ask those Christians, Jews in the world with their head getting lopped off, raped if they would like semi auto guns?
    Gunshow purchases go through the federal check system as the sellers have FFL ‘s.
    People who advocate gun control know that these things make no difference, they are only interested in the politics of it. Milwaukee violence has gone up cause of the Barrett/Flynn/Chisholm/Kremers letting the thugs out of jail.
    There are several million documented use of guns for defense every year or there would be far more murders. as the numbers og uns and concealed carry permits have gone up the last few years overall murders have gone down dramatically except for areas run by the Left with the belief that the thugs should not go to jail and the gun toting thugs get their gun crime dropped. Only 6% get to jail in Chi town.

  10. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Interesting that over 1 million hunters, armed with semi auto guns, assault weapons to some, were in the filed yet not one murder. Blows all your argumentsaway. Gun control is political control fight.

  11. Charles Trimberger says:

    Would the writer from the Wisconsin Conservative Digest please document his statement, used earlier in this discussion:

    “There are several million documented use of guns for defense every year or there would be far more murders.”

    I would like to see you data on this.

  12. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Do your own research, I am not baby sitter.

  13. Vincent Hanna says:

    In other words Charles, he made it up and has no data. As per usual. WCD is like Trump, he’s post-truth. He lies and doesn’t care. He never supplies any evidence and just tells people to do their own research.

  14. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    I have been writing columns in newspapers for the Post hundreds others for 50 years, never wrong. This has been documented John Lott, NRA, FBI for many years but I do not have time to screw with you kiddies, this right now.
    Folks follow David Clarke, Glenn Frankovois and we will be much safer instead of these lefty nuts.

  15. Charles says:

    Dear Digest Guy:

    I’ll consider the source on this, and stop wasting my time. People who are “never wrong” are not to be trusted. btw, why only the Post?

  16. AG says:

    Charles Trimberger, what rules or laws were changed that you believe Scott Walker is responsible for that made such a drastic change in how easy it is for criminals to get guns? How did this change cause the murder rate to sky rocket to near record levels in one year?

  17. Vincent Hanna says:

    Millions is utter nonsense and completely untrue. There were 258 self-defense gun homicides in 2012. Compare that to 8,855 criminal gun homicides.

  18. Vincent Hanna says:

    Easy access to guns didn’t start with Walker (and I am no fan of the guy).

  19. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    When millions read your columns every month you must do research. 99.9% of gun defenses never resolve into a homicide of any kind. Do your research, you only did part of it. Check with NRA, they publish dozens every month. John Lott has written several books he was from harvard or Yale, some eastern big U. Check with FBi. That figure has been used and researched for years.
    The presence of guns known to criminals keeps them away, Gun free zones attract them.

  20. Vincent Hanna says:

    Oh right the NRA a totally neutral and reputable source. Find an unbiased source (and Lott doesn’t count).

    We have more than 300 million guns in this nation. How do you explain all the gun crime if guns keep criminals away?

  21. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    How come all the increase in gun violence is in the cities governed by the Left who have adopted the theory of let the thugs out. Most of you clowns have never been victims, I have. My pharmacies had 3 armed robberies. after I armed myself end of that. 18 burglaries, attacked by 2 guys with knives, cars ,home broken into multiple times, all Milwaukee slugs, 98% white.
    None of the things being pushed by left will solve crime, busting up drug rings and keeping dealers, thugs in jail will. Tommy proved that. Clarke, Frankovis right.

  22. Charles says:

    To AG: Although access to guns was getting easier, Scott Walker signed Concealed Carry and and later amended the law (I believe), to eliminate the waiting period. He also does not come forward with data about permits and gun sales. Does he consider research to be dangerous?

    In another vein, our state has regularly sold driver’s license lists and other lists to marketers. that’s where the flood of credit card junk mail came from. Why can’t municipalities get concealed carry data?

    It is well known from newspaper reports that homicides in Milwaukee are higher than ever. this tied to crime, but is also tied to the fact that almost any joker can get a gun.

  23. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Charles baloney. Almost everyone, felons, can get a gun on street, not cause of Concealed Carry laws. It is fact that as gun purchases, over 100 million, since obama came on board has seen reduction in homicides the last 20 years. FBI. We have seen big increases in left run cities the last 3 years cause they decided not to put people in jail, Clarke has pointed this out on numerous occasions. How many homicides last ten years from CC people?? practically none. How come a city like Austin, about same size as Milwaukee has 1/3 the numbers of homicides by guns and they have 67 gun stores and huge number of carriers, both open and concealed. Up “nort” there is far bigger numbers of guns per person and they have 1/100th numbers of homicides, maybe less. It is the thugs, white, black, whatever, in Milwaukee and Chicago that are not in jail, laugh at our judges, cops, DA’s that are the problem. Talk to the good DA’s, cops, you will find out.

  24. AG says:

    Concealed carry permits do not make it easier for a criminal to purchase a gun.

    Also, the waiting period changes (which by the way, I disagree with) were at the end of June and I’m pretty sure we were already nearing or had passed the previous years murder rate… thus couldn’t have been the cause of the situation.

    I understand the desire to attribute these things to the violence we’ve seen… but that just isn’t the case. That is why leveler heads, who can actually disseminate what really affects our crime rates, are needed to address our problems. Feel good gun control laws that don’t address the true causes are not the answer.

  25. Vincent Hanna says:

    Nationwide crime is down, including homicides, and Milwaukee’s increase is probably not because of the waiting period change.

    This is interesting:

  26. Vincent Hanna says:

    From that story: “The majority of individuals involved in urban firearm violence are young men with substantial violence involvement preceding the more serious offense of a firearm crime,” the report said. “Our findings suggest that integrating data systems could help these individuals better receive the early, comprehensive help that they need to prevent violence involvement.”

  27. Charles says:

    I agree that the issue is complex, and goes beyond guns. Probably the biggest cause is decreased economic opportunity and poverty for an ever larger segment of our population. That’s not going to change any time soon. Meanwhile, we need some common sense about guns. A perfect solution is not possible, but that is no reason for inaction on common sense measures.

    Australia changed after a mass shooting some years back. They chose common sense about guns. So far they have been successful.

  28. charles says:

    Hanna’s link is helpful and points to gun violence as a public health problem. This is an excellent approach, but it requires information, hard data, about individuals and guns. This information is hard to get because of rights of gun owners are considered sacred. With comprehensive information this could be handled like a disease outbreak. But where is this comprehensive information? Why is it difficult to obtain?

  29. AG says:

    As long as there is talk of taking all law abiding citizens guns away, gun owners do not want their names on a registry because they feel it would make it far easier to confiscate their firearms.

  30. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    In NY only 5% of those supposed to register their semi autos have done it. The rest are Gandhi.
    Since we know that violence, with guns, has gone down dramatically despite 100 million new guns,We know that those aras in Wisconsin with the highest number of guns percapita has the lowest number of gun shootings. We know that most of these gun shooting in Milwaukee are with kids from 15 to 40 and are about drugs, then why would we tke guns away from regialr citizens? we know tha thte thugs ahve branched out from Milwaukee and are violetn so peole are getting armed.
    Finally why don’t we put the thugs in jail take awy guns from felons, prosecute straw buyers and concnetrte police froce, dd 250 cops inproblem areas like Rudy and Bloomberg did.

  31. Vincent Hanna says:

    But who is talking about taking every single gun away from every single law abiding citizen? I don’t think even most hardcore gun control advocates are arguing for that. That seems like a fringe viewpoint.

  32. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    There ultimate goal is the Sullivan act, UK, Australia, the Commies. We know that, that is why they want the registered.
    I remember PPh saying they would never do abortions and now that is 90% of their cash business.
    We are not stupid. Teh British were coming to get the guns in the colonies, that is why Paul Revere was riding.
    Nazis told the Jews they were going to rest camps.
    Never trust the Left.

  33. Vincent Hanna says:

    “The left” is plotting against you right now WCD. Sleep with one eye open.

  34. AG says:

    Vincent, I am not in the tin foil hat crowd like wcd, but charles did mention Australia and their “common sense” gun laws… which was to essentially confiscate all guns. So saying we should follow their example means taking away law abiding citizens firearms.

  35. Vincent Hanna says:

    So an anonymous guy on the Internet says something, and it proves a vast conspiracy to take people’s guns? I think you might need to adjust your tinfoil a little.

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