The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Wisconsin state bill to make college campuses gun-free zones

Bill introduced to align college campuses with K-12 laws
Photo by Cade Fisher
Senate Bill 982 would affect both public and private colleges throughout the state.

State Sen. Kelda Roys, D-Madison, and Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, helped introduce Senate Bill 982 which would prohibit a person from possessing a firearm on a college campus.

Currently, colleges can post signage on specific buildings to restrict firearms, according to the senate bill. If guilty of this, an individual would be charged with trespassing and is subject to a forfeiture not to exceed $1,000.

Also under current law, individuals are prohibited from carrying a firearm into a building leased by the state or political subdivision of the state. With this bill, an individual who brings a firearm or weapon onto a college campus would be charged with a class A misdemeanor.

Jay Dobson, UW-Eau Claire campus police chief, said that university police will continue to catch people who break laws, not predicting much change for the activities occurring at UW-Eau Claire if this bill were to be passed into law. 

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“Regarding firearms on campus, they already are prohibited on college campuses,” Dobson said. “It would basically criminalize it, while in the past it was just an administrative code.”

Signs are posted on every building at UW-Eau Claire. (Photo by Mady Leick)

According to Andraca, a group of UW-Madison professors called PROFS came to the state and asked to prohibit guns on college campuses in Wisconsin.

“I said, ‘they’re not already?’” Andraca said. “The way the law is written right now colleges and universities in Wisconsin have to allow guns on campus, but you’re allowed to post building by building.”

According to Roys, S.B. 982 adds protections to colleges and universities to make gun restrictions equal to those in K-12 buildings. When constructing this bill, the committee contacted campus safety offices around the state to hear what the current restrictions are and what each university or college thought about guns on campus.

“It’s actually quite simple in terms of the drafting. Wisconsin has existing gun-free safety zones and you can not carry a concealed weapon in any K-12 school,” Roys said. “We hear from students, as well as faculty and staff that they feel they deserve the same protections as high school students and teachers.”

Jake Wrasse, the legislative and community relations liaison for UW-Eau Claire, said the legislature only has two general assembly sessions left to potentially vote on this bill.

“In the event that this law were finalized we would look to Universities of Wisconsin general council for their advice on what policy and operational changes would need to be made to reflect this law,” Wrasse said.

As listed in the bill, these restrictions do not apply to law enforcement, individuals who lease a residential or business space on a college campus while in that space, for a program approved through the university, if a contract is signed between the person and the university and if the firearm is being carried on campus unloaded and encased. 

Matthew Lehner, a third-year political science student and College Democrats president, said that he strongly supports the bill and urges the legislature to pass the bill.

“At the end of the day no matter if you’re a college student or K-12 student, everyone in general should not be in fear of gun violence on a campus mall or in a campus building,” Lehner said.

President Tatiana Bobrowicz said the College Republicans support the Second Amendment but had no further comments about S.B. 982.

As of right now, Wisconsin is one of 12 states that require colleges to allow guns on campuses. This bill would change that requirement and become the new precedent.

“What I hear from a lot of my colleagues who don’t support gun safety measures is that we don’t need new laws. We just need to enforce the laws we have,” Andraca said. “Yes it is a new law, but we want to keep it consistent.”

The next step for this bill is to receive a public hearing, but there is no guarantee when or if this will occur in the upcoming session. Both Roys and Andraca said that the best thing any student or staff can do to effect this bill is to vote in the next election.

“I think that it is important for people on college campuses to know that we are listening,” Roys said. 

The UW-Eau Claire Student Senate will be discussing this bill at their meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 19. To learn more see the Student Senate column at 

Fisher can be reached at [email protected]. 

Correction: A previous version of this story named the bill H.B. 982 and was corrected to S.B. 982. 

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