I'll love you in buckskin
Or skirts that I've homespun
But I'll love ya' longer, stronger where
Yer friends don't tote a gun
-- Buttons and Bows by Dinah Shore.
In the days Dinah was singing about, East was East and West was West. And it was in the wild West where your friends might tote a gun.
These days, it's just about anywhere in the United States, except for Illinois, the last state to hold out against allowed people to pack concealed weapons. Wisconsin was Number 49 to join the concealed carry states, with a new law to take effect on Nov. 1.
No one knows exactly how many people will apply for permits, but it seems likely to be in the hundreds of thousands.
Imagine that -- hundreds of thousands of people carrying concealed weapons. Is that supposed to make us feel safer?
Thousands of people are taking training classes in Wisconsin in hopes that will qualify them for a permit, but the Dept. of Justice, which will issue them, says it won't even publish the regulations about what's required until mid- to late October, just weeks before the law takes effect.
When the permitting process and requirements are in place, DOJ expects to be buried in applications -- anywhere from 100,000 on the low end to as many as 700,000 in the first month. About 4.3 million residents are over 18. Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for the DOJ, told the Green Bay Press Gazette, :
"We started with an estimate of 100,000 to 250,000. But other states that passed concealed carry laws saw initial applications from 1.5 percent to 13 percent of the population, she said.
"This would put us between the range of 50,000 to more than 700,000," Brueck said. "But, given we have no historical experience to draw off of for our specific state, this question cannot be answered with any degree of scientific certainty."
The state law gives the DOJ 21 days to process applications, but the department has 45 days to process applications submitted between Nov. 1 and Dec. 1.
Good luck with that. Licenses will probably cost $50 for five years and include a background check.
Meanwhile, many local governments and businesses are scrambling to decide whether and how to ban guns from their buildings.
While concealed is radical change in Wisconsin, passage of the law was disappointing to many gun zealots, including Wisconsin Gun Owners and the sponsor of the bill, State Sen. Pam Galloway.
Their extreme agenda calls for so-called "constitutional carry," on the theory that the Constitution gives people the right to carry guns any time, any place, with no permits, background checks, or training required. That aspect of concealed carry is largely ignored by the media. And the NRA is pressing Congress to pass a reciprocity bill that would force Wisconsin to allow those with permits from other states -- no matter how loose their requirements -- to carry guns here.
Once the new law has been on the books for awhile, you can bet there will be attempts to amend it and eliminate the permit and training requirements.
Will Wisconsin legislators be strong enough to resist the gun lobby, and the National Rifle Association over the long haul? The state's citizens didn't even favor concealed carry; in fact, polling showed they opposed it by a wide margin. But lawmakers and the governor ignored that and buckled under on concealed carry. So far they've managed to defeat constitutional carry, but it will be back.
In the current session, a so-called Castle Doctrine bill has been introduced with 25 Assembly sponsors and 15 Senators on board (although one of those Senators, Randy Hopper, is no longer with us, having lost a recall election last month.) Some call it a Shoot-to-Kill or Shoot First (ask questions later) bill, since it virtually gives a license to homeowners to kill anyone who breaks into their premises and who appears to be threatening them -- even if that person is unarmed.
We are getting closer and closer to the Six-Gun Law of the old West, where your friends did tote a gun.
The late Erwin Knoll, left, former editor of The Progressive, used to be challenged when he would call for nuclear disarmament. Did he believe in unilateral disarmament, his critics would ask.
"I not only believe in unilateral disarmament, I practice it," Knoll would say. "I live in a society that is armed to the teeth, and I don't even own a gun."
For many citizens, that's really becoming a reality.
[This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts. ]