Nothing in Wisconsin law would have prevented a person with the same background as the one arrested in Wednesday’s mass shooting in Florida from legally getting his hands on the kind of gun the shooter reportedly used.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, is charged with using an AR-15 rifle he legally purchased in Florida to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Cruz had been expelled from the school but had no criminal record. And while the people around him suspected he was mentally ill, he’d never been formally adjudicated as such.
Asked Thursday if there was anything in state law that would have prevented a person fitting Cruz’s profile from legally buying weapons in Wisconsin, Department of Justice spokesman Johnny Koremenos noted that the minimum age for buying handguns from licensed dealers is 21. That’s true in Florida, too, however, under federal law.
Those 18 and older can buy rifles from licensed dealers in either state.
Comparisons of Wisconsin’s and Florida’s gun laws compiled by the National Rifle Association also show Wisconsin is more lenient in some areas.
Florida, for instance, has a three-day waiting period for purchasing handguns. Wisconsin’s Republican governor and Republican-controlled Legislature ended the state’s two-day waiting period in 2015. Florida sets restrictions on the open carry of handguns; Wisconsin does not, and a 2011 Republican law prohibited municipalities from using other laws to discourage the practice.
According to the San Francisco-based Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which favors more gun control, neither state limits the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time. Wisconsin also does not prohibit the transfer or possession of assault rifles, 50-caliber rifles or large-capacity ammunition magazines; Florida does not regulate them at all.
In a statement, the Milwaukee-based pro-gun-control group WAVE Educational Fund said: “Florida, like Wisconsin, has relatively weak gun laws.
“Both states lack a law that would allow family members or law enforcement officers to petition a court to temporarily remove a firearm from a person who is at high risk of imminently injuring self or others.”
Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican leaders of the Assembly and Senate did not respond to requests for comment about gun laws in light of the Florida shooting.
Since January 2012, Walker has collected $12,500 from the NRA’s political action committee, according to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s donations database. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has received $1,500 from the PAC since October 2014.