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Wisconsin Republicans to sidestep governor’s call for gun control bills

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Republicans who control the state Legislature were expected to dodge the Democratic governor’s call to pass a pair of gun control bills during a special session Thursday, even as advocates planned to increase the pressure on them by holding a rally and flooding the galleries.

Republicans have said they will convene the special session in both the Senate and Assembly and then immediately adjourn without taking action on bills mandating universal background checks and allowing judges to temporarily seize guns from people who pose a threat.

Gov. Tony Evers has said they are ignoring the will of the people and will face blowback from voters at the next election. He’s cited polls showing broad support for both ideas.

Gun control advocates including Moms Demand Action, Doctors for America and the Episcopal Diocese of Milwaukee organized a rally at the Capitol to push for action.

Assembly Democrats planned to force debate on gun issues on a bill Republicans support that’s up for a vote related to reducing suicide. They argue that a “red flag” law, allowing for guns to be seized from people who are a threat to themselves or others, does more to curb suicides than other measures the Assembly is debating.

The Senate, which is not meeting in regular session Thursday, planned to gavel in and out with no action. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald refused to say when exactly that would be done, leaving Democrats and advocates to hang around the Senate chamber awaiting the move.

Fitzgerald has said it makes no sense to debate the bills because Republicans don’t support them and they won’t pass. Both he and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos have said the bills infringe on Second Amendment gun rights.

Seventeen other states have passed similar “red flag” laws. Twenty-one states have similar universal background check laws.

Despite Evers’ warnings that Republicans will pay for ignoring the special session at the ballot box, it’s unlikely they’ll suffer much damage in 2020. The GOP redrew legislative district lines in 2011 to consolidate its supporters, leaving only a handful of truly competitive seats.

As a result, Republican incumbents are less concerned about Democrats than they are about primary challengers who might appear more conservative than them. Gun rights are a basic plank in the Republican platform; any show of support for the special session bills or Evers would almost certainly invite such a challenge.

Evers almost certainly understands these dynamics, but calling a special session on guns is still important to his base and gives him a chance to remind voters where each party stands.

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