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Wisconsin legislator seeks triple damages for businesses that ban guns

Wisconsin legislator seeks triple damages for businesses that ban guns

A state lawmaker wants businesses that ban guns to be held strictly liable for any gun-related injury that might occur in their premises and to pay triple damages.

The bill by Rep. Bob Gannon (R-Slinger) would discourage businesses from posting signs stating that firearms and other weapons are prohibited on the premises. That option was part of Wisconsin’s concealed carry law, which passed in 2011. License holders who violate the restrictions can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

To encourage businesses to allow concealed carry, the concealed carry law provided owners immunity from liability for any gun incident on the premises.

But the law didn’t address liability in the opposite scenario a business that posts a weapons ban and has a gun incident.

Under Gannon’s bill the liability would attach automatically. In other words, if someone with a gun a concealed carry permit holder or otherwise — injured or killed someone inside a store that had a sign prohibiting weapons, the business would be on the hook for triple the damages to any victims.

The Disarmed Citizen Compensation Act “will give the citizens of Wisconsin a better chance of defending themselves and their loved ones against this scourge of terrorist activity,” Gannon said in a news release.

Gannon, who is in the property and casualty insurance business, said he was not aware of any similar law in other states.

“The insurance industry won’t like it,” he said, because insurers would have to raise rates for customers who insist on banning weapons from their sites, or insist on more security or metal detectors. Gannon’s view is that if businesses do not allow “personal self-defense devices,” they must guarantee customer safety in other ways.

It’s not just the insurance industry that might oppose such an effort.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) said the bill is “not on my short list of bills for next session.”

And business owners expressed wariness about whether the law is needed, or just adds another regulatory complication.

“I think among a lot of our members, the symbolism would be well received, but the practicality of it might not be,” said Steve Baas, senior vice president for governmental affairs with Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. “Generally, they’re for tort reform and liability limits.”

Dave Stamm, owner of Stamm Technologies Inc., a Milwaukee IT support company, said even though his firm allows guns inside the building, the proposed law seems punitive toward companies that prohibit them.

“I can be very sympathetic to other business owners who have different business models than my own, and they have made a decision that they think is in the best interests of their staff and/or customers. To have a law that would then kind of penalize them for it in holding risk and paying additional insurance I don’t know that I see that as fair,” Stamm said.

Most of Stamm’s 50 employees are in the field with clients during the day, and they obey whatever the client’s firearms policy is, he said.

Ron Loos, owner of Quality Tool & Die Inc., in Milwaukee, said it seems the proposed law would put too much responsibility on business owners for incidents they probably couldn’t prevent.

“Why would the store owner be penalized for something he had nothing to do with?” Loos said. “He sure as heck didn’t want to have anybody get shot.”

Loos said he personally has no problem with people carrying concealed weapons, and that their presence in a business can serve as a deterrent to crime. But the issue is complicated.

“It’s really a sticky thing,” he said.

More than 300,000 people have obtained permits since Wisconsin became the 49th state to approve concealed carry.

Gannon said he’s gotten “lots of thumbs up” around the Capitol, but won’t release names of lawmakers who support the bill until January.

Courtesy : jsonline.com



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