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Tosa drafts weapons ban for municipal buildings

Council will decide the issue Tuesday

Sept. 28, 2011

Weapons have no place in City Hall.

That was the consensus of the city's Community Development Committee, which on Tuesday recommended Wauwatosa create an ordinance banning weapons from municipal buildings, with the exception of those carried by law enforcement officers.

A state law that allows people to carry concealed weapons with a license goes into effect Nov. 1. However, municipalities have the power to overrule that and prohibit concealed and openly carried weapons within its buildings.

The same state law prohibits anyone from bringing weapons into a school.

Alderman Eric Meaux likened the library - located in the same building as City Hall - to a school with children and an expectation of safety.

"State law says it shouldn't be in school buildings, I'm going to apply that to government buildings," he said.

The panel voted 6-2 in support of an ordinance. The issue will go to the full council next week.

Popular support for ban

A half-dozen residents showed up to give their opinion on the proposed ordinance. Those in support of the ban worried that lively debate on politics and civic issues would be dampened out of fear that the person sitting next to them could get worked up in the heat of a moment and pull a gun.

"More guns just means a greater chance of more deaths," resident Joanne Shansky said.

Allowing weapons in city buildings would send a message supporting violence and the city should take this opportunity to "assert local control," she said.

Committee members received numerous emails, mostly from people in support of a ban. The common theme was a feeling of intimidation and danger that could accompany that knowledge that people could be carrying weapons, Alderman Jeff Roznowski said.

Since firing weapons would remain illegal anywhere in the city, Roznowski didn't see the point of carrying a weapon.

The case for concealed carry

Cases following shootings around the country have been made for self-defense, City Attorney Alan Kesner said.

It's a desire to protect oneself from those who intend harm that lead people to conceal carry, some residents said.

Without metal detectors, how would anyone know if a person walked into City Hall armed, resident Nick Schweitzer asked.

"Really there would be no realistic way of enforcement, except for voluntary compliance," he said.

The ordinance would allow the city to remove someone for trespassing if they were found to have a concealed weapon, Kesner said.

Prohibiting weapons just puts a target on the backs of police officers, the only people who would continue to be armed in city buildings, or lets criminals know law-abiding citizens are vulnerable, Alderwoman Jacqueline Jay said. She and Alderwoman Jill Organ counted for the two dissenting votes.

"People who want to break the law are going to do it anyhow. Why make it obvious you can't protect yourself?" she asked.

There have been times that Jay has felt threatened by residents who have gotten worked up while speaking in city buildings, she said. Having the protection of a weapon would have made her feel safer.

Next step

WHAT: The Common Council will vote on whether to create an ordinance that would ban weapons from city buildings.

WHERE: City Hall, 7725 W. North Ave.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

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