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Bill would let off-duty, retirees carry guns in Wisconsin schools
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MADISON (AP) - A bill that would allow off-duty and retired police officers from any state to carry concealed weapons in Wisconsin schools could prevent mass shootings and save lives if the officers' enemies try to seek revenge against their children, police officials and representatives told a legislative committee Tuesday.

Democrats on the Senate judiciary committee warned that placing more guns in schools would simply create more danger, but the police officials insisted an officer should be allowed to protect people regardless of whether he or she is off duty or retired.

"Just because I left my office as sheriff doesn't mean I still don't have a duty to my community to serve and protect," said retired Walworth Sheriff David Graves, a member of the Wisconsin Sheriffs and Deputy Sheriffs Association's legislative committee.

Federal law has allowed active and retired police to carry concealed weapons subject to state and local prohibitions since 2004. Wisconsin's 2011 concealed carry law, however, allows only on-duty officers to carry weapons on school property.

Under the bill, off-duty and retired police officers from anywhere in the country could carry concealed weapons in schools. Retired officers from Wisconsin would have to pass their former department's annual firearms marksmanship course to continue to carry. The measure's supporters say the proposal essentially restores officers' rights prior to 2011.

The Senate committee's chairman, Van Wanggaard, a Racine Republican and a former police officer who helped write the bill, told the panel he was carrying a gun. He said he has passed the marksmanship tests and called the bill a common-sense change to state law that provides protection at no extra cost to taxpayers.

Graves said off-duty and retired officers could provide another level of security when they visit their children or grandchildren's schools or sporting events.

"The bill would be a force multiplier in an active shooter situation," he said. "(But) if I don't have a tool and I'm not armed, how can I help?"

Mark Buetow, vice president of the Milwaukee Police Association, which represents rank-and-file officers in that city, added that retired and off-duty officers could save students' lives if people whom the officers arrested sought revenge by targeting their children at school.

Sen. Fred Risser, D-Madison, warned that students could tackle an officer if they get a glimpse of a gun. Police responding to a school shooting might mistake the off-duty or retired officers for attackers and kill them, he added.

"I just have a philosophy that fewer guns on school property, the better," Risser said.

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, said she's worried retired officers won't get updated training on cultural awareness, how to detect mental illness and how to de-escalate situations peacefully. That training is crucial now given the rise nationally of white officers killing black men, she said.

The bill cleared an Assembly committee earlier this month. Wanggaard aide Scott Kelly said the Senate panel will likely vote within a few weeks.