The Wisconsin assembly voted to repeal the state’s 48-hour waiting period for purchasing handguns, to allow people to acquire a handgun immediately after authorizing the purchase. The legislature also passed a bill that would allow off-duty and retired law enforcement officers to carry concealed weapons on school campuses.
Both bills are now set to go to the desk of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a 2016 GOP presidential hopeful. Walker’s spokeswoman Laurel Patrick told the La Crosse Tribune that he supports laws that "make it easier for law-abiding citizens to access firearms and difficult for criminals to obtain illegal firearms."
Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Rice Lake, said the measure would only shorten the process for law-abiding citizens to take home a firearm on the day they purchase it. "This is not about putting guns in the hands of criminals," Quinn said, before the assembly approved the measure, Reuters reported.
The move was also supported by pro-gun lobbying groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA).
"This important measure marks the end of an antiquated law that's served as nothing but a needless burden on law-abiding gun owners in the Badger state," Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
The bill had previously passed the Wisconsin senate in April, after the Republican-controlled legislature dismissed concerns from Democrats that the measure would make it easier for unstable or emotionally-charged people to purchase a handgun.
The waiting period "could mean the difference between life and death," said Rep. Lisa Subeck, D-Madison, who argued that it helped curbed suicide and domestic violence, Reuters reported.
In 2013, the latest year for which data are available, 439 people died from firearms-related incidents in the state, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
However, Rep. Mary Czaja, R-Irma, contended that the bill would protect women by giving them a quick way to protect themselves from abusers or stalkers.
"Restraining orders don't help," Czaja said, according to the Tribune. "We're selling these guns to people who pass a background check and are legal and have every right to own one. "This is about empowering women to help themselves and protect their families and their friends."
Ten U.S. states and the District of Columbia currently impose some type of waiting period for purchasing handguns. Wisconsin's 48-hour waiting period, which is required after a Wisconsin Department of Justice background check, was instituted in 1976.