Bill to fund armed officers at schools, crack down on ‘straw purchases’ clears Assembly


The Assembly this evening signed off on a bill that would provide grants to public schools with armed safety officers over objections from Dems that Republicans had hijacked their legislation on background checks.

The bill, which spanned more than three hours of debate, featured several Republican and Democratic amendments, but passed the chamber 71-24 after the Assembly ground to a halt three times this afternoon. 

The legislation, which was not on today’s calendar, also would ban so-called “straw purchases,” or buying a gun with the intent to transfer it to a person who can’t legally possess one.

Before getting amended, the bill — AB 65 — first came to the floor after Dem Rep. Debra Kolste made a motion to take up up the legislation that would have originally required background checks for gun purchases.

Following the motion, the chamber stood informal for about an hour as GOP leaders, in the words of Majority Leader Jim Steineke, did their “due diligence” on the proposal.

After reconvening, Assembly Republicans introduced a substitute amendment to the background checks bill that would allow the Department of Justice to provide grants to school districts to employ law enforcement officers or former law enforcement officers as armed school safety officers.

Dems then tried to use a procedural move to derail the sub, with Rep. Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, arguing the amendment isn’t germane to the bill.

“This sub has absolutely nothing to do with this whatsoever,” he said.  

That attempt failed.

Dems also introduced an amendment to the substitute amendment that sought to replace the provisions in the sub with the original language of the background checks bill.

Neither received votes before the chamber then again stood informal for about 45 minutes.

After gaveling in again, Republicans introduced an amendment to the Dems’ amendment that would add back in grants to public schools with armed safety officers and include language from another bill, SB 408, on straw purchases.

Minority Leader Gordon Hintz called on Republicans to let the chamber stand informal and give Dems a chance to read through it, as multiple GOP lawmakers refused to yield to questions on the amendment.

“To bring up an amendment and to not let us see what’s in it?” the Oshkosh Dem said. “This is the best you can do? Are you guys proud of what’s going on?”

The Assembly then paused again for a series of minutes as GOP members filed out of the chamber to the speaker’s office.

Afterward, the chamber passed 68-27 the latest amendment restoring the Republicans’ grant program, tabled the Democrats’ amendment that would have restored the bill’s original language, and passed on a voice vote a bipartisan amendment by Rep. Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, that would expand the school officer grant program to grades one through 12.

Lawmakers then moved to pass 64-31 the original GOP sub and the bill itself.

Prior to the floor session, Dems in a news conference touted the background checks bill and two other gun-control bills that would prohibit individuals convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor from possessing a firearm, and prohibit the sale or possession of bump stocks.  

Speaker Robin Vos, meanwhile, told reporters this afternoon he would be open to discussing allowing school districts to arm security guards and teachers, although the Rochester Republican characterized Dems’ gun control-related efforts in a media avail before session as a political ploy.

The Senate earlier in the day had passed a bill that would ban the so-called straw purchases. 

The Assembly bill now heads to the Senate.

See the sub.

See the Dem amendment.

See the GOP amendment to the Dem amendment.

See the original bill.