Marklein And Shilling Talk Guns, Legislative Agenda | Wisconsin Public Television

Marklein And Shilling Talk Guns, Legislative Agenda

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Premiere Date: 
March 2, 2018

Marklein And Shilling Talk Guns, Legislative Agenda

In the wake of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, states like Wisconsin are debating what they can do to make sure children remain safe. Speaking to whether Wisconsin will pass any school safety legislation are Sens. Howard Marklein (R Spring Green) and Jennifer Shilling (D La Crosse). Marklein says the state needs to be more responsive, while Shilling says the discussion is long overdue.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

Governor Scott Walker this week said he opposes arming school teachers, but is working up a package of bills to address school safety, which could be introduced in the next couple of weeks in special session. Separately, a bill to help fund armed school safety officers is in the lap of the state Senate, along with other measures already passed in the Assembly, including juvenile prison reform and child tax credits. In a moment, we will talk with Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling about Democrats' ideas for gun safety, but first we turn to Senate President Pro Tem, Republican Howard Marklein of Spring Green. Senator, thanks very much for being here.

Howard Marklein:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

What can you tell us about what is in the governor's school safety package?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I don't know that there's a whole lot of details yet at this point on the governor's package. What I've done is reached out to all of the schools in my Senate district and have asked them their opinion. What are they doing now, and where are there gaps that maybe the state could fill in. So by and large what I’m hearing from my school districts is that I think in Wisconsin, especially my district, I think we're doing a pretty good job of being proactive when it comes to school safety. Our doors are locked. Our staff have gone through training, live shooter training, which is good. Many of our schools have dedicated school resource officers that are there, you know, providing protection at our schools. So I think for the most part, schools in my district are doing a lot of good things and waiting to hear back from them to see if there are other things they can do. I've got a lot of small, rural districts in my Senate district, so one of my school districts administrators from Royal School District in Elroy, they've taken the initiative to assign every one of their pupils to a staff person so that every staff -- every student is assigned. And so we don't have, you know, students, you know, being -- going off on their own being disturbed, which I think is a good thing. Those kind of solutions may work well in my rural district. May not work well in large, urban districts.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you differ with the governor on arming school teachers or how do you feel about that?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I heard from my superintendents. I've surveyed all my superintendents. And again, the feedback I've gotten ranges from yes, if they want to be armed, they should be allowed to do that. The other end of the spectrum is absolutely not. The feedback I’ve gotten from my superintendents ranges the full spectrum.

Frederica Freyberg:

As you know, Democrats have specific proposals, including universal background checks, banning assault style weapons, 48-hour wait periods and other things. Would you or other lawmakers who've received contributions from the NRA support any of those?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I’m focused more on school safety, on trying to make sure that students in our schools are safe. And so I just think that my focus is going to be on trying to make sure that our schools have the resources they need and that we do all we can to keep our students safe.

Frederica Freyberg:

What’s your position on the idea of these court orders that would remove guns from potentially dangerous people when their family or law enforcement kind of reported, that so-called "red flag" law? What's your position on those?

Howard Marklein:

Well, I can share with you a situation that happened in Lafayette County five or six years ago. We had a triple murder in Lafayette County. We had somebody from Waukesha whose parents were concerned about their son, their adult son, who had done some ridiculous things, apparently, and they alerted law enforcement. They alerted a number of agencies, and they had concerns about their son. And because they determined the son was not a threat to himself and had not hurt anybody, nothing was done. And this person ended up coming into my district and ended up murdering three members of the family in Lafayette County. So, you know, I think that a lot of cases we've got processes in place to address some of these things. We need to be more attentive and responsive I think to those kinds of situations.

Frederica Freyberg:

Let me get to some other matters. As for the juvenile prison reform that would close Lincoln Hills, how will the Senate vote on that?

Howard Marklein:

We have not talked about that yet in caucus. You know, there have been a lot of conversations. I think I believe there's consensus that we need to do something as far as closing Lincoln Hills. The proposal that is out there is significant. A lot of moving parts in terms of closing that facility, opening up regional facilities. They're going to take the involvement, the support of our local sheriffs' departments to make that happen. It's a big dollar item. And I guess I just want to make sure that whatever we do is well thought out, because again, it's going to affect a lot of different agencies and a lot of people.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. We need to leave it there. Senator Marklein, thank you for joining us.

Howard Marklein:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

We turn now to Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling and where Democrats stand on gun and school safety. She joins us from La Crosse and thanks a lot for doing so.

Jennifer Shilling:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what are your thoughts on Governor Walker calling a potentially special session on school safety bills?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, it's certainly long overdue. I think we have not taken on this issue as vigilantly as we should have in the past, and certainly what has happened in the last couple weeks, you know, in Florida has put this forward front and center, both in Congress and in state legislatures across the state -- or across the nation.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you think any of these bills should include?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, as we all too often go to our political and emotional corners when we start to talk about gun safety in this state, I think first of all, businesses are taking a step forward. Obviously, we've seen Dick's Sporting Goods this week and Walmart and others are following. I think they're frustrated there's been a lack of action by lawmakers to do some reasonable changes of law when it comes to access to firearms and weapons. So certainly looking at increasing the age to purchase firearms. I know that my Democratic colleagues for several sessions have introduced legislation to look at universal background checks and the public is certainly there on that. That is overwhelming support. But it's also looking at reinstating a 24-hour waiting period. Last week on the floor, I had an amendment that would have allowed schools to exceed their revenue limit on school safety. We had that in place in 2009. And then in 2011 in the budget there was a change with this administration, who removed that exemption. So I hope there are some common areas that we can find agreement and do something significant on this issue.

Frederica Freyberg:

Do you really think that there will be traction from the majority on some of these gun control measures or waiting periods or, you know, banning assault rifles or anything like that?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, I think we are seeing mounting pressure from students and the public, who are frustrated. And I certainly hope that we could have the passion and the courage to do the right thing, just as these young people are speaking out and really putting a face to school violence and the fear that they have that they don't want to -- they don't want to live like that and they expect lawmakers to do some reasonable things. And so while we only have one day left on the floor period, I’m certainly open to a special session that we could move this issue significantly.

Frederica Freyberg:

You know, we just spoke with Senator Howard Marklein and he suggested that as opposed to any of these kind of gun control measures, he would like to see kind of strictly school safety measures, whatever those are comprised of, you know, whether it's locking doors or, you know, specific security in schools as opposed to any of the kinds of things that Democrats are talking about. Do you suppose there's any compromise in things like these red flag laws or that kind of thing?

Jennifer Shilling:

Well, I think that goes to the heart of the issue of allowing schools to exempt school safety measures from their revenue limits. And so as I have spent this week talking to many school district administrators throughout western Wisconsin, they have talked about bullet-proof glass. They have talked about securing their buildings. But they've also talked about mental health needs in their schools and the need for more social workers and school psychologists and psychiatrists. And the importance of building relationships with young people, who may feel that they don't have anyone that connects with them in their life. So I certainly think mental health issues is one set of awareness, but looking to secure these schools is another aspect. But also it is some of the common sense issues about making it harder to purchase these weapons for people who they shouldn't be in their hands in the first place.

Frederica Freyberg:

Just very briefly on another matter, do you expect the juvenile prison reform bill to pass in the Senate?

Jennifer Shilling:

I think that certainly the Senate majority leader has indicated there are some concerns with that. I know I’ve been speaking with individuals within the counties and within law enforcement to see what their concerns are. I can get behind the idea of moving correctional facilities in a regional approach so they can be closer to these youths' homes and support network but I don't know if it's ready for prime time, but certainly we need to move in that direction for some correction reforms in the state for our youth offenders.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Senator Jennifer Shilling, thanks very much.

Jennifer Shilling:

Thank you.

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