ASSEMBLY GOP DIVIDED OVER BANNING BUMP STOCKS

Assembly Republicans have been debating the prospect of one of their members introducing legislation that would ban bump stocks — a possibility that has sharply divided the caucus.

Several Madison Dems earlier this month introduced legislation that would ban the possession, use and sale of the devices that convert semi-automatic rifles into fully automatic weapons. Bump stocks were used in the Las Vegas massacre.

Assembly Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, has expressed an openness to banning the devices. Still, he said some Republicans open to the idea have concerns about the Assembly Dem bill because there is no grandfather provision for those who already have bump stocks. The Dem bill calls for a 180-day window for those who have bump stocks to get rid of them.

Steineke also said some members of the caucus believe it is a federal issue.

“I’m not sure how much appetite there is at this level to deal with it,” Steineke said. “It was a divided caucus on exactly how to address it.”

If a Wisconsin GOP legislator introduced such a bill, it would be one of a handful with a Republican sponsor in state legislatures, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun control measures.

The Massachusetts state Legislature added a rider to an appropriation bill to ban bump stocks, and it won bipartisan support. Meanwhile, GOP members of the Illinois General Assembly and Senate introduced bills this week to ban them. A more expansive Dem bill in the Illinois General Assembly failed this week, because it included similar mechanisms, prompting concerns from some lawmakers it was too expansive.

State Rep. Chris Taylor, one of four Dems to co-sponsor the bump stock bill, said she had discussions with Steineke about a bipartisan bill. But Republicans could not reach a consensus when they caucused on it.

“I was really hoping that we could all agree on the issue and don’t know what the problem with the bill was that I did,” said Taylor, D-Madison.

There are also several forces at play with the discussion beyond the belief by some members of the Assembly GOP caucus that bump stocks should be illegal.

One, Assembly Dems can move a pulling motion to bring their bill to the floor. If Republicans opposed it, they would have to explain why. Some Republicans would be expected to argue it is a federal issue and should be addressed by Congress. Some, though, have advocated for Republicans to have a bill of their own. But that prospect has not set well with some Republican gun rights advocates in the Legislature.

Two, there remain tensions between Assembly GOP leadership and the guv. If a GOP bill were introduced, it could put Gov. Scott Walker in the position of being asked about regulating bump stocks at a time that he is gearing up for his re-election bid.

A Walker spokesman said today if a bill reached his desk, the guv would review it, but declined comment beyond that.

Steineke said he’s willing to consider Taylor’s bill and other proposals.

“I just don’t see this as a Second Amendment issue,” he said. “Some people do see this as a Second Amendment issue. This isn’t something that’s integral to the operation of a weapon itself.”

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