UPDATED: 2/27 @11:20 a.m. PT — Shortly after a man reportedly armed with two handguns fatally shot five people at the Miller Coors brewery in Milwaukee, the head of a Seattle-based gun prohibition lobbying group sent out an email blast using the tragedy to promote gun control legislation in Washington State.
The email called for gun control proponents to demand passage of House Bill 2947, a proposed ban on so-called “high capacity magazines.” That measure is meeting strong resistance from grassroots rights activists who showed up in good numbers for a quickly-scheduled legislative hearing earlier this week. Turnout was apparently unnerving to the billionaire-backed Alliance for Gun Responsibility, whose email complained, “Our opposition is tireless in their work against this bill and they are more organized than ever before.”
This sudden surge of Second Amendment activism was actually a long time coming. Passage of the Alliance’s gun control Initiative 594 in 2014—requiring so-called “universal background checks” that do not appear to have not prevented a single violent crime in Washington state—was the first strike. In 2018, Initiative 1639 was pushed through, prohibiting young adults from buying and owning modern sporting rifles and creating a definition of a “semiautomatic assault rifle”—a firearm that doesn’t really exist—that applies to every self-loading rifle ever manufactured, including .22-caliber hunting and target rifles.
Reports from Milwaukee are downplaying the use of two handguns by the shooter, perhaps because that detail doesn’t follow the current popular narrative about banning so-called “assault rifles,” some activists have suggested on social media.
Surprisingly, the Alliance email admitted up front, “We don’t know many details yet” about the shooting, but it suggested a ban on “high-capacity magazines” might curtail such incidents.
The suspect has been identified by USA Today as Anthony N. Ferrill, 51. He reportedly had worked as an electrician at Miller Coors for 17 years. He had a family and was known to be a firearms owner, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The newspaper heard from neighbors who were stunned that Ferrill was the suspected shooter. Published reports say he had been involved in a “long-running dispute with a co-worker that boiled over.”
Meanwhile, the Alliance is lamenting about the newly-energized grassroots rights activists “calling and emailing legislators every single day and if we don’t do the same thing, we will lose.”
The email also said something else, in bold type, that leaves Evergreen State activists curious: “It is up to us to make sure our elected officials understand that it is their duty to pass this bill. We are NOT going to run another initiative to ask voters to do what our lawmakers were elected to do.”
According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, the Milwaukee shooting “Appears to be yet another mass public shooting in a gun-free zone.” All of the victims were brewery employees, so this might not qualify as a “public” shooting but instead a workplace shooting.
Earlier reports indicated that Ferrill had been dismissed earlier in the day, but that now does not appear to be the case.
One of the guns reportedly was fitted with a “silencer,” a suppressor device that can be legally owned and there are “more than 29,333” registered in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that, “Crime involving the devices is relatively rare, according to an often-cited study that said about 150 cases involving silencers were prosecuted in federal court from 1995 to 2004.”
USA Today is reporting that Democrat Gov. Tony Evers had called on state lawmakers to consider new gun control measures only hours before the shooting. However, Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald “made it clear that Wisconsin’s gun laws would not change under a Republican-controlled Legislature.”
Existing gun controls that were supposed to prevent such incidents did not prevent this one. Rights activists insist that adding yet another gun control law would not have prevented the shooting, either.