Kaul slams GOP election investigation, calls for gun laws

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul on Thursday accused Republicans of chasing conspiracy theories with a $680,000 taxpayer-funded investigation into the 2020 election instead of passing gun control measures polls have shown have broad public support.

Kaul, a Democrat who is up for reelection next year, appeared with a host of Democratic lawmakers and gun safety advocates at a news conference to renew the call for a universal background check and “red flag” law. Republicans who control the state Legislature have repeatedly rejected both.

Republicans have ordered investigations into the 2020 election won by President Joe Biden. Kaul said instead of spending money on that, Kaul said that Republicans should “address real issues Wisconsinites are actually focused on.”

A Marquette University Law School poll in 2019 showed that 80% of respondents support a universal background check proposal and 81% of people who said they have a gun in their home back a “red flag” law, while 86% of people who said they didn’t have a gun in their house back it.

Under such a law, judges could seize guns from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others by courts. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed similar laws.

The background check proposal is designed to require checks for nearly all gun sales, including online, at auctions or at a gun show.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat who is also up for reelection next year, backs both laws and called a special legislative session in 2019 to urge their passage. Republicans ignored his call and removed the items from his state budget proposal last year.

Republican legislative leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu, did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday.

Two Republicans are running to challenge Kaul next year, University of Wisconsin professor Ryan Owens and Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney.

Toney said in a statement that Kaul was ignoring a “homicide epidemic” in Milwaukee, which reported 189 killings last year, the most in its history. Toney also said Kaul was pushing a “radical agenda seeking to strip law abiding citizens of their Second Amendment rights.”

Toney didn’t address the ongoing election investigation by retired Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman that was ordered by Vos. But he did accuse Kaul of not defending or clarifying election laws as attorney general.

Owens said in a statement that Kaul was trying to “take away your rights to protect yourself and your family” by advocating for the two gun bills.

Democratic lawmakers who appeared with Kaul said the measures would make Milwaukee and other Wisconsin communities safer. State Sen. LaTonya Johnson, of Milwaukee, described attending the funeral of 10-year-old Sierra Guyton, who was shot in the head and killed in 2014 after being caught in the crossfire of a gun battle while outside on a school playground. She called for passage of the bills as a way to keep guns out of the hands of the wrong people.

“Safety is not a partisan issue,” said Democratic state Sen. Melissa Agard, of Madison.