Republican Wisconsin state lawmakers have introduced more than a dozen pieces of pro-hunting and gun rights legislation including one measure to allow carrying concealed sidearms without a permit, and Democrats immediately went on the offense, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
One of their main objections was that Ted Nugent, the pro-hunting rock guitarist now a spokesman for Hunter Nation, appeared at a press conference supporting the hunting legislation. A former board member of the embattled National Rifle Association, Nugent told reporters the state should manage wildlife differently and reduce restrictive regulations.
WTMJ News in Milwaukee reported GOP lawmakers believe it is time to reform the state’s concealed carry law, to allow permitless carry—generically known as “constitutional carry”—in the state. The Journal-Sentinel noted it is likely Democrat Gov. Tony Evers would veto such legislation. His efforts to push through expanded background checks and a so-called “red flag” law.
The hunting and fishing legislation includes such measures as making turkey hunting regulations simpler and releasing more pheasants, to opening a season on sandhill cranes. Supporters also want to reduce regulations on fishing, hunting and trapping adopted by the state Department of Natural Resources, the Journal-Sentinel reported.
Sharp criticism for hunting regulations came from Republican Sen. Bob Stafsholt of New Richmond.
“The regulation books used to be four or five pages long,” Stafsholt said, “and now the deer hunting regulation book is over 75 pages long. We’re trying to simplify things so that people understand the parameters they must be within. Most people try hard to follow those regulations, and we’re trying to simplify them to make sure they can do that.”
It’s a common complaint heard across the West. Fish and Wildlife agencies have turned once-simple regulations pamphlets into lengthy documents, and they can be confusing.
Speaking in support of the outdoor legislation, Senate Majority Leader Devin Le Mahieu said hunting in Wisconsin provides a $4 billion boost to the economy and supports 34,000 jobs. This translates to $1 billion in salaries and wages.
“It is a part of the fabric of our state,” Le Mahieu said, as quoted by the newspaper. “We’re standing for our hunters, fishermen, and anglers in all types of sportsmen in the state of Wisconsin. We remain committed to protecting their rights here and preserving them going forward.”
But Democrats used Nugent’s presence to play politics, complaining about the rocker’s past escapades, which included personal attacks against ex-President Barack Obama. The Journal-Sentinel devoted nearly 500 words to Nugent’s past, although that had no connection to the proposed legislative package.
The newspaper said state Sen. Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) called the press conference “a stunt,” and asserted the legislation was “all for political theater and do nothing to help sportsmen and preserve Wisconsin’s hunting heritage.” Smith is on the Sporting Heritage Committee.