Gov. Evers Calls Special Session on Gun Reform

On Oct. 21, Gov. Tony Evers issued Executive Order #54, calling for a special session of the Legislature on Nov. 7 to address gun violence. The executive order directs the legislature to consider two bills: a “red-flag” law and universal background check requirements.

LRB 4383/LRB 4700, authored by Rep. Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) and Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), would create an extreme risk protection temporary restraining order and extreme risk protection injunction preventing a person from possessing a firearm if the person is found by a court to be substantially likely to injure someone. Petitions for extreme risk protection orders may be filed by law enforcement or family/household members of the respondent.

LRB 4698/LRB 4701 would create a universal background check requirement for the sale or transfer of firearms.

Leaders of the Republican-majority Legislature have indicated they will not pass the proposed bills. In a statement, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said, “A special session call will not change where my Assembly Republican colleagues and I stand on protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of Wisconsin citizens. As I have repeatedly said, we will not entertain proposals that infringe on our constitutional rights.”

Similarly, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said in a statement, “After the governor opened the door to a long-term plan of gun confiscation at his press conference last month, it’s easy to see how today’s action could just be the first attack on the Second Amendment. The Senate will not be part of a drawn-out strategy to infringe on constitutional rights.”

The Wisconsin Constitution allows the governor to convene the legislature in special session, during which “no business shall be transacted except as shall be necessary to accomplish the special purposes for which it was convened” (Wis. Const. Art. IV § 11). However, the governor cannot force the Legislature to take up any bills. The Senate and Assembly could adhere to the governor’s orders and convene by simply gaveling in, then adjourning shortly after without taking up the governor’s recommended bills.