Hollow-point ammo, semi-auto gun bans sought

Madison — Several of the more stringent proposals to ban certain types of firearms and ammunition that failed in the U.S. Senate earlier this year have now been incorporated into Wisconsin Assembly bills 221 and 222, which seek to ban hollow-point ammo and semi-automatic firearms.

If passed, AB-222 also could extend to some pump rifles and shotguns, as well as most guns with thumbhole stocks.

AB-221 seeks to ban hollow-point ammunition, and was introduced by Milwaukee Democrats Frederick Kessler and Christine Sinicki. According to the Legislative Reference Bureau, this bill would prohibit a person, with certain exceptions such as for law enforcement or to comply with hunting requirements, from selling, transporting, manufacturing, or possessing any hollow-point bullet, any bullet that expands or flattens easily in the human body, or any bullet with a hard envelope that does not entirely cover the core of the bullet.

An individual who violates the prohibition would be guilty of a Class H felony and be subject to a fine of up to $10,000, up to six years in prison, or both.

Jeff Nass, executive director of Wisconsin Firearms Owners, Ranges, Clubs and Educators (the state NRA chapter), pointed out numerous problems the bill presents for law-abiding citizens.

“While it will have no effect on the violent criminal, this bill will severely restrict the ability of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves in the most effective manner,” he said. “The bill would ban the most effective rounds for stopping a violent threat and increase the danger due to over-penetration and deflection by full-metal-jacketed bullets.”

He warned the bill also would place unreasonable limitations and restrictions on hunting ammunition.

“Although this bill includes an exception for compliance with hunting requirements, the state DNR requires the use of ammunition with expanding bullets only for deer and bear hunting,” he said.

Nass stressed that hollow points and other expanding bullets are widely used by those who hunt coyotes, wolves, and other game.

“This bill could potentially stop predator and varmint hunting in the state by riflemen and handgun hunters,” he said.

AB-222 was introduced by Kessler, Sinicki, and fellow Milwaukee Democrats Madela Barnes and LaTonya Johnson, and Chris Taylor, D-Madison. Both bills were co-sponsored by Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison.

This bill would define a wide variety of semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns and pistols as “assault weapons,” based on cosmetic features and ammunition capacity.

According to the LRB, it would ban the transportation, purchase, possession, or transfer of these newly defined “assault weapons.” Under the bill, whoever transports, buys, possesses, or transfers them would be guilty of a felony and may be fined up to $10,000, sentenced to up to six years in prison, or both. If the crime is committed in a school zone, the maximum term of imprisonment is increased by five years.

AB-222 would prohibit the possession, use, or sale of a semi-automatic, centerfire, or pump-action rifle with a detachable magazine that has any of the following:

  • A pistol grip;
  • A folding, telescoping, or thumbhole stock;
  • A second handgrip or protruding grip that can be held by the non-trigger hand;
  • A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel;
  • A muzzle brake or muzzle compensator;
  • A grenade launcher or a flare launcher;
  • A flash suppressor;
  • A forward pistol grip.

The bill also would ban any semi-automatic pistol, or any semi-automatic centerfire rifle with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds. However, lever-action rifles with tubular magazines would be exempt.

Semi-automatic centerfire rifles with an overall length of less than 30 inches would be banned. Currently, hunters and other citizens may own and use rifles with 16-inch barrels and an overall length of 26 inches.

Also banned would be semi-automatic shotguns with:

  • A pistol grip, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip and a folding or telescoping stock;
  • A fixed magazine capacity in excess of five rounds;
  • The ability to accept a detachable magazine;
  • A shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

“Banning these firearms is blatantly unconstitutional,” Nass said. “It will do nothing to stop crime while restricting many firearms used by law-abiding citizens for hunting, sport shooting, and self-defense.”

Larry Wipperfurth, of Wilderness Fish and Game, a full-service hunting and fishing outfitter in Sauk City, said the bills would affect his business and customers in a negative way, but also do nothing to curb any crime.

“The firearms and ammunition these bills seek to ban represent nearly 25 percent of our firearm-related business,” Wipperfurth said. “It’s interesting that other than the First Amendment, liberals have no respect for the Constitution.”

When contacted about the bills by Wisconsin Outdoor News, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said, “We typically don’t comment on pending or proposed legislation. Frankly, that’s all we would have time for if we did.

“On all bills that relate to the department, we offer our technical and professional expertise to bill authors and give them pros and cons of their ideas. We do not advocate for or against, but we do educate so policy makers can make sound decisions,” she said.

“Since this has not been scheduled for hearing, the DNR has not put together formal information or testimony for the Legislature,” DNR spokesperson Jennifer Pelej said.

DOJ spokesperson Dana Brueck said her agency hasn’t yet weighed in on the bills. Wisconsin Outdoor News also contacted the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, but as of press time had not received a response.

Both bills have been referred to the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice, and at press time no hearings had been scheduled.

With the Legislature focused on passing a state budget, Nass doesn’t expect the bills to progress too far at this time. However, he advised concerned citizens to contact legislators, especially members of the Assembly Committee on Criminal Justice.

“It’s always good to keep in touch with your state representative and senator. Let them know your position on these issues,” he said. 

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