Wisconsin Governor Fine-Tuning State Gun Laws

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is tweaking his state's gun laws with several bills he's signed in the past few days.

Last week, two those bills simplified the state's concealed carry rules.

One bill allows active military personnel from other states who are stationed in Wisconsin for more than a year to apply for concealed weapons permits, according to this story from the Star Tribune. Previously, as in many states, the permits were unavailable to anyone officially a resident of another state.

The other bill he signed simplifies the process for former police officers who worked in other states to get a carry permit. Previously, they had to go back to the state where they worked as a cop to get a permit. Now, they can file an application through the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Then, this week, Walker signed a bill into law that toughened prison sentences for felons caught carrying guns, according to this story from the Badger Herald.

The bill sets the mandatory minimum sentence on such a crime of three years for convicted felons with firearms, and adds five more years if the person commits another violent felony, the story says.

The bill caused a fair share of controversy in Wisconsin, as many oppose the idea of mandatory minimum sentences for any crime.

According to Sen. Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee), taking judicial discretion out of the hands of judges and not allowing them to make fact-based sentences is a bad idea, the story says.

Walter DIckey, professor of law emeritus at University of Wisconsin, said the bill gives judges enormous leverage in terms of the guilty plea. Anyone charged with a crime with a mandatory minimum sentence is far more likely to plead guilty to a different crime (whether they are guilty or not) simply to avoid the risk of a guaranteed sentence if found guilty.

"You can make (defendants) plea to a different offense that doesn't include the mandatory minimum and we all go a happy way," Dickey said in the story. "This is really uncontrolled discretion exerted by the prosecutors, and by and large I think to have it so unconstrained is not a good idea."