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Johnson votes against advancing bipartisan gun laws, blaming funding for red flag laws

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ron johnson

MADISON (WKOW) -- Sen. Ron Johnson said Wednesday funding for states' red flag laws was the reason he voted against advancing a bipartisan package of  proposed gun laws in the U.S. Senate.

14 GOP senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, voted Tuesday to advance the series of bills, which were crafted by a bipartisan group of 10 Republican and 10 Democratic senators.

The bill would enhance the background check process of buyers younger than 21 and provide incentives to states who include juvenile records in the national background check database.

The bill also makes it harder for people convicted of domestic violence but not married to their victim to get a gun, closing the "boyfriend loophole." Also including in the package is millions of dollars in funding for school safety and mental health problems.

Johnson said he could not vote for the bill because it also provides funding to states that enact red flag laws, allowing police to temporarily take away guns from people reported by relatives as a threat to themselves or others.

"This bill provides resources to states to adopt red flag laws without requiring sufficient due process to those accused -- thereby eroding 2nd amendment protections," Johnson said in an emailed statement from his office. "I simply cannot support it."

Johnson's prospective opponents in this fall's race for the Oshkosh Republican's seat blasted the two-term senator of his vote against the package.

“It’s no surprise that Ron Johnson voted against advancing this bill," Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said in a statement. "He’s been bought and paid for by the gun lobby many times over."

"The NRA gets what they paid for," State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski wrote on Twitter.

Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson also cited the more than $1 million Johnson, and political groups backing him, have received in donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA) over the course of his political career.

"Ron Johnson doesn't care about our democracy, and he doesn't care about our kids," Nelson said in a statement Tuesday night. "He cares about stealing elections and serving the gun lobby."

Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, who was the only leading Democrat trailing Johnson in hypothetical matchups released Wednesday by the Marquette Law Poll, also attacked Johnson shortly after the vote.

"Our kids cannot be replaced -- but do nothing Senators like Ron Johnson can," Lasry wrote on Twitter. "It’s time to pass common sense gun safety legislation."

The Senate vote came on the same day the House select committee investigating the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol revealed text messages Johnson's chief of staff sent to an aide for former Vice President Mike Pence. minutes before Pence was set to certify President Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 election.

Johnson staffer, Sean Riley, told Pence's legislative director, Chris Hodgson, Johnson wanted to deliver slates of fake presidential electors for Michigan and Wisconsin, declaring Donald Trump the winner in those states even though election officials had found Biden beat Trump.

Johnson told reporters the revelation was a 'non-story,' adding he did not know the fake elector slate was being sent to his office and denied involvement in the decision to offer the slate to Pence.

"It was a staff-to-staff deal," Johnson told a CNN reporter Tuesday evening. "I mean, [the package] apparently had Michigan and Wisconsin. I had no hand in any of it. Again, this, this, this lasted a couple minutes in our office. Then the episode was over."

Johnson's office did not answer questions Wednesday about who sent the slates to Johnson's office and whether he approved of Riley approaching the vice president's staff without, apparently, not consulting with Johnson first. 

Capitol Bureau Chief