High costs could climb under crime proposalsThe National Rifle Association and Wisconsin Attorney General. J.B. Van Hollen have new ideas on how to spend government money.
By: By Matt Pommer, Superior Telegram
The National Rifle Association and Wisconsin Attorney General. J.B. Van Hollen have new ideas on how to spend government money.
In the wake of the Newtown school massacre, the gun lobby is proposing a $5.7 billion federal program to put armed police officers in every school in America. Only officers with guns can stop the bad guys, the NRA says.
The attorney general wants to take money from school alcohol-abuse programs, prison-guard training, anti-gang efforts and funding for public defenders. The money would then pay for taking DNA samples from those arrested, also helping sexual assault victims.
Both ideas will test the Tea Party folks who believe the goal of elected officials should be reducing government spending.
Some pundits suggest the NRA is merely trying to head off any efforts to place restrictions on the sale of certain weapons and ammunition. While the NRA maintains that Second Amendment protections on gun ownership are nearly absolute, its critics argue that restricting the weapons is a better approach than hiring more armed police.
Political columnists often put the adjective “powerful” before the gun lobby in discussing politics. Clearly, elected politicians are afraid of getting bad pre-election grades from the gun lobby.
Perhaps the extent of the gun lobby’s political power could be tested if Wisconsin were to opt for a statewide advisory referendum on the NRA’s $5 billion program. The referendum would be offering advice to the Congress.
The gun lobby would have to come out and promote the concept. Wisconsin citizens might like the idea of putting armed officers in all schools, regardless of the cost of the program. All sorts of details would be thrown in front of advancing the referendum. Would parochial schools be included in the program?
Some might try to delay the idea, noting the huge federal deficit, but all new programs probably should be measured against such a situation. Restricting weapons could be less expensive, some will say.
Wisconsin has a long tradition of higher voter turnout when controversial issues and elections are on the ballot. Both the NRA and gun control folks should welcome a chance to vote on the issue, although opponents would want other gun questions on the ballot.
Van Hollen’s ideas were included in the Department of Justice’s biennial budget request. The Department of Administration has been warning state agencies there will be little, if any, new money in the upcoming budget that Gov. Scott Walker will propose to the Legislature early this winter.
The AG’s proposal would affect the nearly $10 million collected as a surcharge on criminal fines. Van Hollen told the Associated Press that the program was meant to fund Justice Department programs.
Under his approach, the agencies losing money would have to convince the Legislature to find other money for their activities. The Department of Public Instruction said schools would lose $3.7 million eliminating alcohol — and drug-abuse prevention programs.
Also at risk would be 10 state workers who instruct teachers on issues such as bullying, preventing suicide and helping parents get mental health services.
Gov. Scott Walker has indicated his support for collecting DNA samples from those who are arrested. He and Van Hollen say that collecting DNA samples is similar to taking fingerprints from those arrested. The money issue is but one of scores of budget issues awaiting the new Legislature and the incoming U.S. Congress.