Vinehout backs universal background checks for firearm sales, knocks Foxconn subsidies

Photo by Saiyna Bashir, The Capital Times

Dem guv candidate Kathleen Vinehout says she’d support universal background checks for all gun sales.

These checks, she added, would be applicable to federally-licensed dealers as well as gun sales among private individuals, which she argued should be allowed to continue.

“It’s a protection for the owner as much as for society,” the Alma senator said at a luncheon Thursday in Madison.

She also mentioned a provision in Democratic background check legislation introduced in the Assembly last month, which would have essentially banned private gun sales, was a sticking point for her.

Vinehout stopped short of calling for any bans on assault-style rifles in the wake of a Parkland, Fla., high school shooting that left 17 dead, arguing that such bans would not be effective due to the difficulty in defining them.

She pointed toward President Bill Clinton’s federal assault weapons ban as a policy that failed because of such difficulties, and instead said she would want to focus on enforcing current law banning automatic weapons.

“It was very, very difficult to define them at the federal level, and as a consequence it was not at all effective,” Vinehout said. “Fully automatic weapons are illegal, and anything that makes it automatic should also be illegal.

For Vinehout, this means supporting a ban on bump stocks and other mechanisms which allow semi-automatic weapons to rapidly fire rounds.

To address school safety amid several high-profile national shootings, Vinehout said she’d support legislation introduced by Assembly Republicans that would provide grants for armed school safety officers.

She also backs measures her Dem opponent state Superintendent Tony Evers outlined in a letter to Gov. Scott Walker earlier this week. That includes allowing schools to raise levy limits for safety improvements and providing additional funding for risk assessments and mental health care in public schools.

And like Walker, she also said she would oppose arming teachers.

“I’ve never talked to a teacher that wants to carry a gun in their desk. If they wanted to be in law enforcement they would be in law enforcement,” she said.

Vinehout condemned the state’s incentive package for Foxconn, saying she would support lawsuits brought against the project for environmental violations.

She argued the project likely violates the Great Lakes Compact — a 2008 agreement among several Great Lakes states regarding water management — because it would likely transfer water out of the Great Lakes Watershed.

If the DNR approves the city of Racine’s request, Foxconn would be authorized to pull about 5.8 million gallons of water per day from Lake Michigan. Mount Pleasant, where Foxconn would be located, straddles both the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds.

She also heavily criticized the general wisdom of such economic development projects, fearing an ever-greater number of companies would begin demanding benefits.

“It’s bad policy. It’s bad economics. Where do you stop?” Vinehout questioned.

She called out Gov. Scott Walker for highlighting the importance of the paper industry in his call for Foxconn-style tax credits for Kimberly-Clark, questioning why struggling farmers in Wisconsin’s signature dairy industry don’t receive a financial break.

“There’s a whole bunch of dairy farmers that aren’t able to pay their bills,” Vinehout said. “Is the dairy industry is not transformational?”

She went on to criticize the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s handling of the project, contending the agency failed to collect enough information at the outset to ensure Foxconn would deliver on its jobs promises. She said she worries the Taiwanese company might use temporary agencies to skirt terms in the contract.

See more from Thursday’s luncheon in the Friday REPORT.