Gun control laws in Minnesota and Wisconsin

Discussing MN, WI gun laws in wake of Maine mass shooting

More attention is on gun control legislation in the wake of Wednesday's shooting. Minnesota has stricter gun control than Wisconsin.

There were 648 mass shootings in America in 2022. This week’s shooting in Maine marks the 565th mass shooting this year, with 2023 on track to be the deadliest year on record for mass shootings. 

“What happened in Maine doesn’t have to be the reality, right? We don’t have to live in a country where we’re hearing these horrific stories over and over and over,” said Protect Minnesota Executive Director Maggiy Emery. “And I would say Minnesota is not exempt just because we haven’t had a major mass shooting like this yet. It doesn’t mean we’re not going to if something doesn’t change. It’s so important that we have gun violence prevention laws and that we have communities grounded in safety because none of us wants to lose our loved ones in this way.”

Originally named ‘Citizens for a Safer Minnesota’, Protect Minnesota is an advocacy group that works to prevent gun violence. 

“This past legislative session, we passed some additional things that are really going to help our state be safer, like extreme risk protection and background checks. But we still have quite a ways to go until we really reach that level of safety that’s possible for us,” said Emery.

Extreme Risk Gun Laws, also known as Red Flag laws, have been adopted by 21 states, including Minnesota and Michigan. 

“What we do know is that when someone demonstrates that they intend to make an act like this, like this kind of extremely tragic event, that’s what extreme risk protections really help,” Emery explained. If a member of law enforcement or family member becomes aware of the intentions and sees the warning signs, they can file that petition in court and get the person’s firearms removed until they have been able to obtain help for whatever the crisis period that they’re going through is, that’s maybe going to eventually lead to a tragic situation like what we saw in Maine.”

Wisconsin does not have universal background checks, waiting periods, or Red Flag laws.

“When we see red flag laws, most federal and state laws already address people who are a threat to themselves or others,” said Wisconsin FORCE President Robert Kovach. “It’s already against the law for people who are such a threat to have a firearm. So having another law that they call a red flag law, it really already exists, and creating another layer of bureaucracy isn’t going to really address any of the firearm problems that people are trying to fix.”

Wisconsin FORCE is an NRA-affiliated organization that has been representing firearm owners in the state since the 50s. Kovach believes enforcement is more of the issue than legislation. 

“Wherever we see issues relating to the misuse of firearms, there’s always already a law on the books that addresses those problems,” Kovach explained. “What we have is more of a problem with the courts not enforcing some of the issues and people who maybe should be incarcerated or having in-patient mental health care out on the street.”

Protect Minnesota wants more gun legislation passed in next year’s session. 

“We’re looking at safe and secure firearm storage, which would make sure that everybody who has a gun in the home keeps it locked up when it’s not in use, lessons on firearm reporting to make sure that everybody who has a gun lost or stolen reports to law enforcement and Office of Violence Prevention at the state level, banning firearms in places of democracy like polling locations in the capital,” said Emery. “And then making sure that those folks who are doing public health services in-house battles of helping folks who have been shot, discontinue the cycle of violence and making sure that that public health service is billable to Medicaid.”

Both sides of the issue seem to agree on mental health being part of the issue.

“When we look at case after case of mass shootings, there’s report after report after report about the person having a struggle with mental health, and if we address some of those inpatient mental health needs of these people who are harmed or harmful to themselves or others, I think we’re going to go a long way in stopping these mass shootings,” said Kovach.

More information on specific gun laws by state can be found at this website. Giffords annual Gun Law Scorecard by state can be found at this link.