Gun control advocates have seized upon a Brookfield, Wisconsin shooting last year as evidence validating their drive for more restrictive gun laws. The tragic story of the Azana Spa shooting on a Sunday last October has risen to a leading anecdote in the gun debate thanks to the efforts of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. The New York Times in a Thursday story declared that, “Cases like the Wisconsin spa shooting are at the heart of the debate raging in Washington over whether to expand background checks for all gun purchases.”
While that representation fits the desired liberal narrative, it may not fit the facts. Local media outlets in Wisconsin pointed out in the days and weeks after the shooting that local law enforcement agencies repeatedly failed to apprehend the eventual shooter after coming in contact with him numerous times in violence and domestic abuse related incidents.
On Sunday October 21, 2012, Radcliffe Haughton walked into a suburban spa outside of Milwaukee where his wife worked and opened fire with a handgun he purchased in a private sale. Haughton killed 3 – including his wife – and injured 4 before taking his own life. Because Haughton purchased the weapon used in the shooting from a private seller, liberals cite the tragedy as proof that more restrictive gun laws are needed.
Although the alleged “gun-show loophole” is blamed for Haughton’s ability to purchase a gun, in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy it was law enforcement’s failure to enforce existing law before the shooting that made headlines.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, police officers were called to Haughton’s home in Brown Deer, Wisconsin at least 20 times, but never made a single arrest. At one point Haughton made a threatening move with his hand, causing an officer to draw a weapon in defense. When Haughton then slammed the door in the officer’s face, the officer left without arresting him.
In early 2011, police officers engaged in a 90-minute tactical standoff with Haughton at his home. When police first arrived on the scene they believed Haughton had a weapon and was threatening his wife. The standoff ended when a police supervisor told officers to leave the scene. Wisconsin law requires that officers make an arrest in instances where domestic abuse is suspected. No arrests were made.
When asked, the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office said they couldn’t necessarily file charges against Haughton because local police would not arrest him. An attempt by a prosecutor in the DA’s office to get a misdemeanor conviction failed after the prosecutor didn’t realize that the key witness for the particular event, a police officer, was on vacation the day of the trial date.
Haughton was ordered by a court to turn any guns he had over to the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office in a restraining ordered that his wife requested shortly before the shooting.
Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) has not mentioned any of these failures to enforce existing law, and use existing law enforcement tools and options, to deal with the killer before he became a killer. Founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and led in Wisconsin by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, MAIG has successfully framed the tragedy as solely about Haughton’s ability to procure a gun.
Earlier in the gun debate, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn admitted in a U.S. Senate hearing that in the City of Milwaukee police officers do not make it a priority to pursue individuals who illegally obtain a gun before they commit a crime, even if they fail a background check.