- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - People could carry concealed switchblades and knives in Wisconsin under a bill Assembly Republicans approved Tuesday despite warnings from minority Democrats that the measure would lead to more stabbings.

Manufacturing, selling, transporting, purchasing or possessing a switchblade has been illegal in Wisconsin for decades. Violators are subject to $10,000 in fines and nine months in jail.

The GOP proposal would eliminate the prohibition. It also would allow people who can legally possess a firearm to carry concealed knives of any length without a concealed carry license. Local governments would be barred from enacting knife regulations that are stricter than state law, but could ban knives in municipal buildings. Schools and college campuses could still bar knives on their property.

Sen. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, lamented that the bill would add to the proliferation of deadly weapons in Wisconsin. The bill comes a little more than four years after Republican legislators passed a law allowing concealed firearms in Wisconsin.

“This is totally, totally misguided. What is next? Nunchucks?” Taylor said. “I cannot understand this bill. I think this is a horrible bill.”

The measure’s author, Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Chippewa Falls, countered that the sky didn’t fall when Republicans allowed concealed firearms and it won’t fall now. Knives are merely tools, she said.

“When you intend to harm someone, that’s when it becomes a deadly weapon,” she said.

The Assembly ultimately approved the bill on a voice vote. It now goes to the state Senate. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, had no immediate comment on the measure’s chances in that house.

Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs and Educators Inc., a gun-rights group known as Wisconsin FORCE, is the only organization that registered in support of the bill, according to state Government Accountability Board records. In an April letter to the public safety committee, the group’s executive director, Jeffery L. Nass, said the 1950s-set street-gang musical “West Side Story” has fostered a fear of knives.

“(Wisconsin FORCE) believes that passing legislation … removing emotional restrictions on humankind’s first tool, will greatly serve the citizens of Wisconsin,” Nass wrote.

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Follow Todd Richmond on Twitter at https://twitter.com/trichmond1


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