Bull Session

Dan O’Donnell sees right through Governor Evers’ call for a special session on gun control. He doesn’t want bills passed; he wants Republicans punished.

@DanODonnelShow The red flag law that Gov. Evers & AG Kaul have proposed is indeed unconstitutional - it allows for the seizure of property w/out due process #2A #guncontrol #2ndAmendment Click To Tweet @SpeakerVos Red Flag = I believe that you might do something wrong, I have the ability to take away your weapon & then you can go beg for it back. That's not how America works #2A #guncontrol #2ndAmendment Click To Tweet @SenFitzgerald - A vote on these bills is not going to happen #2A #guncontrol #2ndAmendment Click To Tweet


In a divided government, there are two ways to lead: With an outstretched hand or a cocked fist; as a hopeful dealmaker or as a jaded partisan. Governor Evers has once again chosen the latter, and in so doing has thrown away any hope of compromise with the Wisconsin Legislature for a chance at politically embarrassing it.

His call for a special session on two gun control bills that have no prayer of passing, though, is a political gambit that is too clever by half, and Governor Evers is about to learn the hard way that if he is going to govern as a partisan, he really should try to get better at politics.

Evers clearly wants Republicans on record voting against the “red flag” law and universal background checks he keeps assuring himself that “80% of the people of the state of Wisconsin support,” and his call for a special session, he thought, would finally force this vote.

Only it didn’t. And it won’t.

“[A vote on these bills] is not going to happen,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said in a news conference Tuesday. “It’s just not going to happen.”

State law requires the Legislature to hold a special session whenever the Governor calls one, but the Legislature can decide for itself how long each session will be. In this case, it will be approximately four seconds. Fitzgerald signaled Tuesday that he would gavel in the Senate’s special session next month and then immediately gavel it closed.

“You weigh it and then call it into session, and then simply adjourn it,” he explained.

So much for the dramatic vote against “commonsense gun laws” that Evers had envisioned. But then, these are the risks one takes when one decides to use proposed legislation as a political bludgeon instead of an opening for negotiation.

“It seems like it’s hyper-partisanship politics all the time [with Evers],” Vos said in an interview on News/Talk 1130 WISN Tuesday. “He ran as somebody who is this nice guy moderate, but now we’re seeing someone who is a dyed-in-the-wool liberal kind of in the same vein of [presidential candidate] Beto O’Rourke and some of these other folks who don’t seem to understand how important the Second Amendment is to those of us who read and care about the Constitution.”

The sort of red flag law that Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul have proposed is indeed grossly unconstitutional, as it allows for the seizure of property (i.e. a firearm) without due process of law.

“Let’s take the idea of a red flag law and let’s just take the word ‘firearm’ out of it and let’s put ‘car’ in it instead,” Vos said. “Your wife believes that you’re going to go out with your buddies and you might get drunk, so I’m going to have a judge take away your car before you even have a hearing where you can say, ‘Look, I was never drunk. I never did anything wrong. Why are you taking my car away?’ And it’s going to take time, effort, and attorneys to get it back.

“We would never accept that because you didn’t commit any crime, it was just the thought that you would! Well that’s what a red flag law does. It says that if I believe that you might do something wrong, I have the ability to take away your weapon and then you can go beg for it back. Well that’s not how America works!”

Nor is demanding a doomed vote solely to weaponized said vote in the next election the way divided government should work, but Evers is nonetheless determined to push forward.

Instead, he would be wise to follow the lead of his counterpart to the north, Minnesota’s Democratic Governor Tim Walz, who said Monday that he would not call a similar special session on gun control since Republican opposition in the Minnesota State Senate would render the effort futile.

“At this point in time, I don’t think calling a special session would move us any further along,” Walz said. “But it’s our intent to continue to ask to come together around this.”

Evers conversely has no intent to come together around any issue, least of all gun control. Whereas he might have worked on a compromise on some form of a universal background check bill (which has at least some extremely cautious support amongst Republicans), Evers has instead tried to punish Republicans by forcing them to vote on a red flag bill that he knows they never would support and then turn around and use their “no” votes against them in the 2020 legislative elections.

He could have chosen to, like Walz, stretch out his hand but has instead swung a fist. Unfortunately for him, he seems to have missed.


Dan O’Donnell’s column appears every Wednesday at MacIverInstitute.com. You can also listen to The Dan O’Donnell show every morning 9-11am on News/Talk 1130AM WISN and 1310AM WIBA.