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Despite Obstacles, Gun-Control Advocates See Hope

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High-profile shootings in states like Minnesota and Colorado this year have renewed calls for stricter gun laws. (Adobe Stock)
High-profile shootings in states like Minnesota and Colorado this year have renewed calls for stricter gun laws. (Adobe Stock)
 By Mike Moen - Producer, Contact
April 9, 2021

MILWAUKEE - There's a renewed push for gun-control measures in Wisconsin and at the federal level, with President Joe Biden's executive actions this week.

Advocates of the plans say longstanding opposition remains, but the focus on different aspects of the gun debate might receive greater support.

Biden's announcement follows several mass shootings in the U.S. His executive orders range from restrictions on homemade firearms known as "ghost guns," to investments in community violence-intervention programs.

Jeri Bonavia, executive director of the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, noted that Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has a similar funding proposal, which she believes can work.

"We know - across other cities and other states - have been really effective at interrupting the cycles of violence that have led to so many deaths," said Bonavia.

A 2019 study of an Oakland, California, program found a 23% reduction in gang-related shooting activity. But efforts to adopt expanded background checks - in Wisconsin and in Congress - are still opposed by most Republicans, who cite Second Amendment rights and the need to focus on mental-health issues.

Bonavia said she thinks broader support from the public could change lawmakers' minds.

A 2018 poll from the Marquette University Law School found more than 80% of Wisconsin residents support expanded background checks. Bonavia said it indicates the general public wants something done, even if they haven't been directly impacted by gun violence.

"Just think about how much gun violence changes the way we live our day-to-day lives," said Bonavia. "Makes us think twice when we go into a move theatre - like, 'Where's the exit?'"

Despite some of the urgency, national gun-control advocates acknowledge they'll have to play the long game on some issues. They say they'll keep pressing for tighter restrictions, even if partisan divides prevent comprehensive gun-control legislation from passing right now.

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