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By D.L. Davis July 5, 2022

Plan for a universal background check requirement for all firearm sales falls flat

In his first budget, Gov. Tony Evers tried to expand background checks and put in place gun restrictions but the Republican-led Legislature blocked the change.

The governor's 2021-23 budget proposal put the matter back on the table, calling for a universal background check requirement for all firearm sales.

The measure would have prohibited any person from transferring any firearm, including the frame or receiver of a firearm, unless the transfer occured through a federally licensed firearms dealer and involved a Wisconsin Department of Justice background check.

It also proposed what is known as a "red flag" law, which would allow a judge to bar people deemed a threat to themselves or others from having a gun for a set period. A family member or law enforcement officer would be able to seek such an order.

Only 19 states have red flag laws, but a key piece of the recent federal legislation provided money to states to establish such programs. That said, a May 22, 2022, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article noted "Republicans who control the state Legislature are unlikely to ever take up legislation to expand background checks or add red-flag policies and have rejected repeated calls from Democrats to do so." 

We rated this promise In the Works in March 2021, since the proposal was back on the table in the 2021-'23 budget. However, Republicans removed those provisions.

We asked Evers' staff for any evidence on progress related to this promise, as well as other promises, but did not receive an update.

Despite Evers' efforts, this promise is not in place. If the governor wins a second  term, we'll revisit next year. But for now, we rate it Promise Broken.


Our Sources

PolitiFact Wisconsin Evers-O-Meter

PolitiFact Wisconsin Evers-O-Meter, March 26, 2019.

Governor's Task Force on Broadband Access, 2021

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Wisconsin awards $125M in rural internet service grants. Which communities will receive higher speeds?" June 24, 2022

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Inmates say they will stop eating to persuade Tony Evers 'to make good' on campaign pledge to reduce solitary confinement," March 27, 2019.

PolitiFact Wisconsin Evers-O-Meter, April 18, 2019.

PolitiFact Wisconsin Evers-O-Meter, March 9, 2021.

Budget in Brief, Feb. 2021

PolitiFact Wisconsin Evers-O-Meter, Jan. 19, 2021

Budget in Brief, 2021-23

Gov. Tony Evers, Executive Orders

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "As Congress passes new gun controls, what to know about Wisconsin's laws on concealed carry, age limits and more," June 30, 2022 "Republican Party of Wisconsin Resolutions 2022"

PolitiFact Wisconsin Evers-O-Meter, March 9, 2021.

Justia Regulations "Wisconsin Administrative Code Department of Corrections Chapter DOC 308 - Administrative Confinement Section DOC 308.04 - Administrative confinement," March 28, 2022

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "Wisconsin Democrats call for stricter gun laws, GOP candidate Nicholson seeks more armed security after Texas school shootings," May 22, 2022


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel   """"""" "Nearly everyone supports universal background checks for gun buyers. Here's why Wisconsin is unlikely to make it law," Aug. 7, 2019

Eric Litke
By Eric Litke November 19, 2019

Evers finding no traction for gun control changes

Gov. Tony Evers' push for gun control changes in Wisconsin came to a head in the November 2019 do-nothing special session, but it's hardly a new point of emphasis for the Democratic leader.

Evers said on the 2018 campaign trail he supports universal background checks, regulating certain firepower that allows rapid firing and other protections.

But the Republican Legislature has blocked all attempts to address the subject.

Evers' recent gun control efforts focused on two proposals:

Red flag laws — These allow judges to temporarily remove firearms from people acting dangerously. They are also referred to as Emergency Risk Protection Orders.

Universal background checks — These measures require background checks for sales by private parties, in addition to gun dealers, which are already required by federal law.''

Evers called the Legislature into a special session on gun control Nov. 7, 2019, but leaders of the Assembly and Senate each took less than a minute to shut down the session without debate or votes on either proposal. Evers has said he may call another special session.

So Evers has tried to address background checks as promised, but without success. He has not introduced any proposal on the other specifics mentioned before his election. And the first of his two budgets this term also did not address any of the gun control promises.

Evers still has time to address this with three years remaining in his term, but for now we rate this promise Stalled.

Our Sources

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, What you need to know about where Scott Walker and Tony Evers stand on guns, Oct. 29, 2018

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Tony Evers called lawmakers in Thursday to act on guns. GOP leaders rejected it within seconds, Nov. 8, 2019

Wisconsin Public Radio, Gov. Tony Evers May Call Another Special Session On State Gun Laws, Nov. 18, 2019

PolitiFact Wisconsin, Fact-checking guns ahead of Wisconsin's special session, Nov. 6, 2019

Email exchange with Melissa Baldauff, spokeswoman for Gov. Tony Evers, Nov. 18-19, 2019

Legislative Fiscal Bureau, Comparative Summary of Provisions, 2019 Act 9, 2019-21 State Budget, August 2019

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