The 48-hour waiting period - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

The 48-hour waiting period

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Gun violence continues to be a problem in our society. The issue was once again brought into the realm of public discussion after a string of murders in the Madison area this week.

Solving this issue yields countless theories and ideas. Many argue for stricter enforcement and harsher penalties, while others argue for new gun laws. The most recent change, when it comes to gun laws, happened in June of last year when Wisconsin lawmakers decided to remove the 48-hour waiting requirement for new handgun purchases.

The requirement dates back to 1976, long before instant background checks were available for new purchases. That's why Governor Scott Walker and others who wrote the law felt it had become an obsolete requirement that was an unnecessary inconvenience for gun shop owners and buyers.

"Today there is a rational instant criminal background check system that enables us to get instant information about whether or not someone is eligible to possess a hand gun," Governor Walker said after signing the bill into law last June.

Currently, eight states and the District of Columbia currently have waiting periods. The state with the longest waiting period is Hawaii, where prospective gun buyers have to wait a full two weeks before they can legally obtain a gun.

Many would argue that waiting requirement is a tad unreasonable, but two local families who were affected by gun violence in Southern Wisconsin argue a two-day wait is not unreasonable at all.

"To think that somebody you love is here, it's really hard," Bethany Long says while standing over her husband's grave in Janesville.

On March 19th of this year, Long was busy packing for a family trip with her husband Justin and her two young boys.

"I was running errands that Saturday morning and my husband goes be sure to get me some lemon drops," Long explains.

Within six hours she went from packing clothes, to planning her husband's funeral.

"He never got to eat them, so I decided to lay them here by his grave."

Nearly seven weeks later, the painful memories of that fateful day still bring tears to her eyes. 

"There hasn't been a day since that I haven't cried," Long says. "I never thought that I'd be a widow at the age of 30."

On March 19th, Long's husband Justin was called in for questioning at the Janesville Police Department. He was accused of sexual misconduct by two teenage girls. Long says being that her husband was a tennis coach and a teacher in the Janesville community, her husband suddenly saw his life crumbling around him.

"As a teacher and a coach, once you have allegations against you, whether they are true or false, you're pretty much done for," Long explains. "What he admitted to officers during that interview isn't illegal. To my knowledge there is no direct evidence to prove these accusations."

Police say Justin Long walked into the police station willingly and answered all of their questions. Detectives say he asked forward moving questions, such as "should I tell the school district?" and "will I be arrested?" Authorities say he seemed to understand the seriousness of these accusations, but didn't seem overly distraught.

Within 25 minutes of leaving the station, police say he got his hands on a gun. Bethany Long says she went home and found a suicide note and immediately called police.

"The police officer told us they had changed the law back in June to buy a gun right away. That's when I went from hopeful to this is going to end badly," Long says.

When police caught up with Justin a few hours later he was driving his car a few blocks from his home. They were looking for him to make sure he was okay, but Bethany feels that her husband panicked, because he likely thought he was going to be arrested. Police say the responding officers got out of their cars and called out to Justin. That's when they heard a single gunshot ring out.

"If he hadn't had the gun, the police officers would have stopped him and brought him home to me," Long explains.

Despite being fairly conservative when it comes to gun laws, Long believes a 48-hour waiting period could have saved her husband's life. Jim and Jane Nosal of Madison feel the same way about the way their daughter was killed in February.

"We are not anti-gun, we are anti-irresponsible use of guns," mother Jane explains.

The couple lost their daughter Caroline after she was gunned down in the parking lot of the grocery store she worked at. Madison police say her shooter, a disgruntled co-worker, bought the gun the day before he killed her. 

The family feels an infinite number of scenarios could have prevented this from happening, from the shooter deciding against it, to a friend or co-worker noticing something wasn't right. 

Their grief still affects them daily. Earlier this month they had to celebrate Caroline's first birth day since her passing.

"May 1st is my birthday," Jane Nosal explains. "Caroline was born on my 33rd birthday. We always celebrated together. We were never apart. that was a very difficult day."

Caroline's apartment in Stoughton is still left the same since the day she died. Jim and Jane say they just can't get themselves to clean it out. Every item they see is a painful reminder of the daughter they lost.

"I went in the bathroom and I looked at her tooth brush," says Jane. "Everything just the way she had it." 

Together with Wisconsin State Representative Chris Taylor, they're hoping to bring back the 48-hour waiting period. Rep. Taylor cites a new study from the American Journal of Public Health showing higher suicide rates in states where there is no waiting period in place.

"Because suicide can be very impulsive and if you use a gun, obviously the fatality from a suicide is much greater," Taylor explains.

She's hoping to undo the bill that was passed last June that eliminated the 48-hour requirement in Wisconsin. 27 News reached out to several lawmakers who were either involved in writing or sponsoring this bill. So far they have all declined an on-camera interview.

While data supports a possible link between the 48-hour waiting period and lower suicide rates, lawmakers say there's no proof to suggest lower homicide rates.

Even if there's a remote chance that a waiting period could save a life, Bethany Long feels it's worth taking another look.

"Two boys don't have a dad. I don't have a husband, because he was able to obtain a firearm right away."

Long was very reluctant to share her story with 27 News, but felt it was important to show lawmakers and the surrounding community how gun violence can affect people of all walks of life. She's hoping her story will start a conversation on whether to bring back the 48-hour waiting period.

"I think the lawmakers when they put these laws in place, they need to know it's not just a piece of paper, you're impacting real lives."

For more information on the 48-hour waiting period on new handguns, check out these informative websites:

Wisconsin Department of Justice Firearms Unit
American Journal of Public Health (Research Article on Suicide Rates and Waiting Periods on Guns)

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (Information on Waiting Periods)

National Rifle Association Education and Training Services

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