MADISON, Wis. – Wisconsin police would be forbidden from enforcing any new federal gun and ammunition restrictions, bans or registration requirements under a bill a Republican lawmaker is circulating.
Rep. Michael Schraa of Oshkosh, a first-term legislator and a member of the National Rifle Association, sent out an email Tuesday to his fellow lawmakers seeking co-sponsors for the proposal. He also issued a statement to the media saying the bill is meant to send a message that Wisconsin won't help the federal government restrict the public's constitutional right to bear arms.
"I'm not this cowboy, gun-toting legislator," Schraa said in a telephone interview. "I just think it's ultimately important to protect our constitutional rights. When I raised my right hand on Jan. 7 and took the oath of office, I took an oath that I would defend the Wisconsin Constitution and the federal constitution. That's the motivating factor."
Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, said he thought the Civil War determined that federal law pre-empts state law.
"States don't get to pick and choose what federal laws apply to the states or not," Danou said. "This is settled law. (The bill is) just not rational."
The bill comes after President Obama introduced a gun control plan in the wake of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December. The president's proposal included banning assault-style rifles and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and extending background checks to almost all gun sales. The plan ultimately died in the Senate, but the president has urged supporters to pressure Congress to reconsider the issues.
Under Schraa's bill, a state or local law enforcement officer would be prohibited from enforcing any federal act, law, rule, regulation or order enacted after Jan. 1, 2013, that bans or restricts semi-automatic weapons, assault weapons or magazines; requires people to register their guns, ammunitions or other firearm accessories; regulates magazine capacities or how much ammunition a person can possess; prohibits types of ammunition; or requires people to turn their weapons into the government.
Any police officer who knowingly enforces any of those federal statutes or orders would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and nine months in jail.
The measure also would specify that guns manufactured in Wisconsin and stamped "Made in Wisconsin" haven't traveled across state lines and aren't subject to the federal interstate commerce clause. Some gun advocates fear the federal government could argue the commerce clause gives it the ability to regulate weapon movements within a state; eight other states have adopted similar provisions, according to the Council of State Governments.
The proposal would ban doctors from asking patients about whether they own guns when gathering their medical history. Schraa said he included the prohibition because the federal health care overhaul doesn't ban such communication.
"It just doesn't make any sense," Schraa said. "It's an intrusion in our privacy and I don't think there's any place for it."
United In Freedom, a group that supports conservative candidates, and Wisconsin Gun Rights, a gun rights advocacy group, have organized a rally for the bill in Madison on Saturday. Charles Brey, president of United in Freedom, said the legislation is about "correcting federal overreach."
"If you look at what's been coming out of (Washington), D.C., in recent months, it's more like active resistance. They've been striking at us," Brey said. "We need to make sure it's clearly enumerated where we stand and where we draw the line as a state."
Donald Downs, a political science and law professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the federal government can't compel state and local officials to assist in enforcing federal law. But states and their citizens are subject to constitutional federal laws, including statutes stemming from the commerce law, he said.
"For the state to pass a law that says outright, 'We're not going to abide by a federal law,' is pretty extreme," Downs said. "The best thing is, if you don't like it, just go to court."
Sheboygan Falls Police Chief Steve Riffel, president of the Wisconsin Chiefs of Police Association, didn't immediately return telephone and email messages seeking comment on the bill late Tuesday afternoon.
The bill's prospects are unclear. Schraa set the deadline for co-sponsors to sign on for Friday, June 21. Republicans control the Assembly and Senate, but both houses are consumed with passing the state budget before lawmakers recess for the summer.
GOP leaders were noncommittal. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Burlington, said he hadn't seen the bill's exact language yet. A spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he also hasn't had a chance to review the measure.