Elvin Daniel, right, whose sister Zina was killed by her husband last October at a Brookfield spa, said the tragedy could have been avoided if the law required background checks for private transactions of guns during a news conference with law enforcement officials and some Democratic lawmakers, including Rep. Jon Richards, left, Thursday, March 21, in Madison, Wis. Democrats have a new proposal that would make it illegal to purchase or transfer guns without running background checks.
Wisconsin Democrats unveiled legislation Thursday that would make it illegal to buy or transfer guns without a background check, with the brother of a recent mall shooting saying such a law might have saved his sister.
The proposal faces an uphill battle at the Capitol, where majority Republicans have been cool to a variety of proposals this year on gun violence.
Elvin Daniel's sister, Zina Haughton, was among seven people shot in an attack by her husband at a Brookfield spa last October. Haughton's husband bought the handgun from a private owner just days before the shooting and after she was granted a restraining order against him.
If a universal background check had been in place, "There is a pretty good chance my sister Zina will still be here with us," Daniel said in slightly cracked voice.
The proposal, authored by Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee, Rep. Terese Berceau of Madison and Sen. Nikiya Harris of Milwaukee, would cover transactions at gun shows, flea markets, or between individuals.
Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, said the proposal would deny gun owners' constitutional rights. He called it a political stunt and unnecessary. Tom Evenson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said the legislation won't go anywhere while federal action is pending.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos did not have an immediate comment, his spokeswoman Kit Beyer said.
Daniel said he supports background checks even though he is a gun owner, hunter and member of the National Rifle Association.
Wisconsin requires people who purchase guns from federal licensed dealers to undergo background checks, but it doesn't regulate private transactions. The proposal's sponsors said closing such a loophole is vital to preventing dangerous people from getting guns.
Richards cited public support for the checks, citing a Marquette University law school poll this week that found more than 80 percent of Wisconsinites favor them. The bill would exempt guns that are temporarily loaned for hunting and target shooting, given to adult family members as gifts, inherited from family members or sold to licensed dealers.
Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn, also at the news conference, said his city has seized more than 6,000 guns in the last five years, and only 400 were reported stolen in that period.
"There is a real industry out there, buying firearms and selling them on the street," Flynn said.
The bill would exempt guns that are temporarily loaned for hunting and target shooting, given to adult family members as gifts, inherited from family members or sold to licensed dealers.
After a gunman killed 20 first-grade students and six educators in December at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., President Barack Obama and some congressional lawmakers have pressed for universal background checks on gun buyers, restoring a ban on military-style assault weapons and limiting the size of ammunition magazines.
This week, the U.S. Senate dropped the assault weapons ban from the gun control package they plan to consider next month. The package retains proposals to expand background checks.