Three WI legislators want universal background checks

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MADISON (WITI) -- Representatives Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee), Terese Berceau (D-Madison) and Senator Nikiya Harris (D-Milwaukee) joined together Thursday, March 21st to announce they will be introducing legislation to add Wisconsin to the growing list of states requiring criminal background checks for all people buying firearms.

Under federal law, background checks are already mandatory for people who purchase weapons from federally licensed firearms dealers.  However, private-party transactions aren’t covered by the federal law, including sales by private sellers at gun shows and flea markets or on the Internet.

Other supporters who attended Thursday's event included Elvin Daniel, whose sister, Zina Daniel was killed in last year's shooting at a Brookfield spa; Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney; and Jeri Bonavia, the executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort (WAVE).

“A significant percentage of all gun buyers escape a criminal background check because they’re going through unlicensed dealers,” Rep. Richards said.  “Because of a loophole in the law, people who cannot legally possess firearms are getting their hands on guns.  I believe most people would agree that the law should apply equally to everyone.”

“I am happy to join my colleagues in authoring this common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence in our communities. Universal background checks show that it's possible to respect the Second Amendment, while keeping guns out of the wrong hands,” noted Sen. Harris.

“We know that universal background checks serve as a deterrent to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.  Between 1998 and the end of 2010, background checks prevented more than two million prohibited people from purchasing firearms,” Rep. Berceau stated.

Johns Hopkins University reported last fall that a national study of inmates indicated that “nearly 80 percent of those who had used a handgun in a crime had acquired it through a transaction with an individual who was not a licensed gun dealer.”

The legislators noted the lack of mandatory universal background checks has had tragic consequences here in Wisconsin.

Five months ago, Radcliffe Haughton shot his estranged wife, Zina Daniel, and two other women at the Azana Salon and Spa in Brookfield.

Daniel took out a restraining order against her husband a few days before the shooting. Under the conditions of the order of protection, Haughton could not legally own or purchase firearms, yet he bought a gun over the Internet the day before the shooting.