MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker refused to say Wednesday whether he will support proposals in the Legislature to ban assault rifles and the sale of high damage ammunition following the deadly Connecticut school shooting.
However, Walker said in an interview with The Associated Press that he is open to using GPS monitoring to track people who are under restraining orders. And he wants to convene a meeting of mental health experts early in the year to discuss what can be done to ensure people are getting adequate treatment.
"There seems to be a real serious concern about mental health status," Walker said. "To me that seems to be a larger issue."
There has been a nationwide call, primarily among Democrats led by President Barack Obama, for tighter gun control laws following the shooting of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newton, Conn. But Walker and Republicans who control the Wisconsin Legislature have been more hesitant to call for quick changes to gun laws.
Issues around mass shootings, including two earlier this year in Wisconsin, are complicated and can't be quickly solved, said Walker, who has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association and received its highest A-plus rating.
"I want to be careful that we're not forcing a solution to something that's maybe more complicated than just a specific piece of legislation," Walker said.
Democratic state Rep. Fred Kessler, who is proposing the assault weapons ban and other changes, said he's not surprised that Walker isn't enthusiastic about banning assault rifles or hollow-point bullets. But Kessler said he hoped Walker would get behind his proposal to require a mental health evaluation before someone is issued a concealed weapon.
"I'm not saying yes or no," Walker said when asked if he would support the law changes put forward by Kessler and other Democrats. "I'm just saying a couple days after on anything, even a specific mental health issue, is a little bit early because we don't know all the details."
Assembly Democratic leader Rep. Peter Barca said he talked with Walker at length Tuesday about convening people to talk about gun violence.
"I hope he's looking at this broadly, though," Barca said. "Because it's not just a mental health issue."
Two mass shootings earlier this year in Wisconsin first spurred talk of action, which has only accelerated following the Connecticut school shooting.
In August, a white supremacist opened fire inside a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, a Milwaukee suburb, killing six worshippers before killing himself during a firefight with police.
Two months later, a man killed his wife and two other women at a Brookfield spa using a semi-automatic handgun he bought the day before from a private owner. His wife had just taken out a restraining order against him days earlier that required him to turn in all his firearms. The shooter killed himself.
Following that shooting Democrats called for tightening the state law requiring those with a restraining order to turn over their firearms to police to make sure the weapons are surrendered. Democrats also say they want to require background checks for all gun sales, not just those from a licensed dealer.
Walker on Wednesday focused on GPS tracking people with restraining orders, saying doing a better job of that could have helped prevent the spa shooting.
Kessler said he wasn't necessarily opposed to that idea but was concerned about how much it would cost and how effective it would be.
Wisconsin law already allows for GPS tracking of people who violate a domestic abuse restraining order. Expanding that to all recipients of restraining orders could be a positive move, said Tony Gibart, policy coordinator for the Wisconsin Coalition against Domestic Violence.
All the talk of action at the state level came as Obama was pushing for many of the same changes nationally. The president Wednesday called on Congress to reinstate an assault weapons ban that expired in 2004 and to pass legislation that would close the gun show "loophole," which allows people to purchase firearms from private dealers without a background check. He also called on Congress to look into limiting high-capacity ammunition clips.
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