A Republican state lawmaker plans to introduce legislation that would discourage private businesses from banning firearms on their property.

The proposal from Rep. Bob Gannon, R-Slinger, is the first measure put forth by state Republicans in the wake of a shooting at an Orlando, Florida, gay nightclub that killed 49 and wounded more than 50, the worst gun massacre in modern American history.

Wisconsin’s 2011 concealed carry law creates immunity from civil liability for gun-related deaths for businesses that allow guns on their property.

Gannon’s proposal, dubbed the “Disarmed Citizen Compensation Act,” would go a step further in discouraging gun-free zones by allowing a victim of gun violence to sue businesses with such bans and recover triple the amount of damages without regard to who was at fault.

“There are violent thugs in our midst, some homegrown, some international, who are determined to cause us harm,” Gannon said in a statement. “This bill will give the citizens of Wisconsin a better chance of defending themselves and their loved ones against this scourge of terrorist activity.”

Gannon said in an interview he announced the bill now, as opposed to in the legislative session that begins in January, in response to the national debate about gun control sparked by the Orlando shooting.

Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said Gannon’s proposal would expose businesses to significant potential litigation, “which clearly would hurt our business climate.”

“This is a radical departure from the idea of allowing businesses to make their own decisions about what is best for their operations,” Barca said.

Gannon said he had some concerns about coercing a private business to take certain actions, but likened his approach to the smoking ban, which Democrats justified as protecting the public from secondhand smoke. He said it would apply to all businesses, including bars, malls, churches, day care centers and nursing homes.

“If you’re going to allow somebody to come in and put a bullet in my brain, you should have some liability,” Gannon said.

Gannon said if businesses still want to post gun-free zone signs then they should consider adding metal detectors and armed security guards.

Ladd Everitt, communications director for the national Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, called the proposal “utterly idiotic” and one that could hurt tourism in the state.

He noted The Pulse nightclub in Orlando had an armed security guard, who traded gunfire with the gunman before it became a hostage situation. The shooter, Omar Mateen, declared allegiance to the Islamic State and was killed after police stormed the nightclub.

“You can imagine how much worse that situation would have been if three cowboys had whipped out guns and started trying to figure out who the good guys and the bad guys were,” Everitt said.

Gannon said he assumed someone with a gun could have accidentally shot the wrong person, “but when a guy is shooting over 100 people, there’s a good chance a good guy could have dropped him.”

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, was unavailable for comment on the proposal Wednesday. Gov. Scott Walker and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, did not respond to a request for comment.

Last session, Republican bills that would have allowed guns on K-12 and college campuses were introduced but didn’t come up for a vote.

Gannon has been an ardent critic of gun-free zones, criticizing Madison’s East Towne Mall last year after a man was injured in a shooting. After the incident, he issued a statement saying, “Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law-abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scumbags.”

Democrats decried the statement, saying it was a call for vigilantism. Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, said in response that if more guns made the public safer, then the United States should be the safest country in the world.


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