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A Democratic state senator and three Democratic state representatives have circulated draft legislation that would ban civilian possession of hollow point or frangible ammunition in Wisconsin. According to existing Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regulations, sportsmen and women in Wisconsin must use such ammunition when hunting deer or bear. The Democratic lawmakers, two of whom are freshman, all hail from urban districts in the City of Milwaukee.
The reasoning behind the legislation is somewhat muddled. The impact, however, is quite clear. According to a legislative counsel review of the legislation, it would essentially make it impossible for civilians to hunt deer or bear in Wisconsin.
“The provision in the bill draft that provides whoever intentionally sells, transports or possesses any bullet that expands or flattens easily in the human body is guilty of a Class H felony conflicts with current DNR hunting rules. Under s. NR 10.09 (1)(c)2., ‘no person shall hunt any deer or bear with any air rifle, rim-fire rifle, any center-fire rifle less than .22 caliber, any .410 bore or less shotgun or handgun loaded with .410 shotgun shell ammunition or with ammunition loaded with nonexpanding type bullets or ammunition loaded with shot other than a single slug or projectile.’ The bill draft does not provide an exception to the prohibition on possessing expanding bullets for deer or bear hunting.” (Emphasis added)
The draft legislation was circulated by Sen. Nikiya Harris (D), Rep. Mandela Barnes, (D), Rep. Evan Goyke (D), and Rep. Fred Kessler (D). Mandela and Goyke are freshman lawmakers elected just last November. A phone call around 3:00 pm to Rep. Goyke’s office went unanswered, as did phone calls to Rep. Kessler’s office and Sen. Harris’s office.
When asked about the contradiction between the bill draft and DNR rules, an intern (who did not identify himself as such) for Rep. Barnes said that Barnes wasn’t interested in banning deer hunting and indicated that the lawmakers had no clue that their legislation – if formally introduced and passed – would have done just that. However, a staff member later followed up that comment saying it did not reflect the official position of the office.
A spokesperson for Rep. Peter Barca, the leader of the Assembly Democrats, was not available to comment on the proposal.
Just how familiar the Democratic lawmakers are with hollow point ammunition is open to question. In their e-mail circulating the draft to fellow legislators, the quartet claimed that the military uses hollow point ammunition. “While used by the military for decades – in part because they inflict massive wounds – hollowpoint bullets have little, if any, practical use for self-defense or hunting in everyday society. Tragically, they are essentially human-killing bullets.”
That statement is false.
The U.S. military does not use hollow point ammunition in combat because of the Hague Declaration of 1899. Some experts have argued, however, that the military should start using hollow point ammunition because it minimizes collateral damage and would thus be safer and more humane than so-called “ball” ammunition.
Rep. Dave Craig, a Republican and former staffer for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R), who is an avid Wisconsin hunter, drew attention to the draft legislation in a press release late Friday. Craig declared, “This assault on our state’s rich hunting tradition is appalling. While I’m rarely surprised by the degree some will go to attack our 2nd Amendment Rights, these Democrats have demonstrated just how far they will go to achieve their goal of suppressing the rich traditions so many in Wisconsin hold dearly.”
In addition to being required for hunting deer and bear in Wisconsin, hollow point and frangible ammunition is widely used by state and federal law enforcement agencies because of its precision and power. Unlike other types of ammunition, these rounds break apart or expand on impact, reducing the likelihood of going through a target and hurting innocent bystanders.
Many civilians also use such ammunition because in both hunting and personal protection situations it is far safer than using full metal jacket rounds. Fully jacketed rounds often run the risk of over penetration, moving behind the target and potentially striking or damaging people and property beyond the target.