MADISON -- A Wisconsin lawmaker is calling on concealed carry permit holders to "clean our society of scum bags" after a shooting inside the crowded East Towne Mall in Madison that happened on Saturday, December 19th.
Criminals in a mall with guns will think twice if they know there are people willing to shoot back, Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, said in a news release that sparked controversy Monday morning.
Democrats criticized the idea, saying Gannon was inciting a "vigilante uprising." They said more guns in the mall wouldn't have stopped Saturday's shooting.
The mall, like many others, does not allow guns inside. Gannon said that created a "target-rich environment" for criminals looking to harm people.
"That is not vigilantism. That is self-defense," Gannon said when asked whether he'd gone too far with his comments. "Maybe that's too strong, but it's my nature to say things in a strong manner to make sure people are paying attention."
A fight between two groups of teenagers led up to the shooting Saturday afternoon. One of the teenagers was hit, but police said his injuries were not life-threatening. Police put the mall on lockdown for three hours before re-opening it to holiday shoppers.
No bystanders shot at the fighting teenagers during Saturday's incident. That's a good thing, Gannon said, because the fight broke up right after the shooting.
"That's what a good concealed carry holder would've done is walked away and gone home safe again because the threat was over," Gannon told FOX6 News in an interview, "but if that threat continued -- pull, aim, fire."
Democrats said the idea was irresponsible and would make malls less safe.
"It's simply a terrible idea," said Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, D-Milwaukee. "This is just another example of my Republican colleagues being more scared of the (National Rifle Association) than of mass shootings, unfortunately."
Brostoff said malls and other public places would be made safer if lawmakers implemented universal background checks for prospective gun owners.
Gannon, who refuses to shop at businesses that don't allow guns inside, said concealed carry permit holders are trained to shoot only if their life is in danger. Such would be the case in a crowded mall, he said.
Permit holders are also trained to shoot with intent to kill, he said.
"This isn't the wild west, where you shoot to wound them in the foot," he said. "You aim for center mass and you pull the trigger and you keep pulling 'til that threat stops."
As of Monday, Madison police were still looking for the people responsible for Saturday's shooting.