By John Rondy
MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - Wisconsin, one of two states in the nation that prohibits citizens from carrying a concealed weapon, is expected to reverse this law during the upcoming state legislative session, according to a local newspaper.
Only Illinois and Wisconsin forbid carrying concealed weapons. A Republican was elected governor and Republicans won majorities in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature in November, bringing many more supporters of gun rights to the state government.
"You're going to see a concealed carry bill pass the Legislature, I have no doubt," Chris Danou, a Democratic legislator from Trempealeau, Wisconsin, told the LaCrosse Tribune newspaper. "The question is what kind of bill it's going to be."
Guns are a big part of Wisconsin culture as hunting is popular in the state, which has vast areas of forest and agricultural land. But it has traditionally restricted gun ownership and carrying weapons.
Twice in recent years the Wisconsin legislature passed a law allowing concealed carry but Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed it. Doyle left office this month and was succeeded by Republican Scott Walker.
Walker said last week that he expects a concealed carry bill to emerge as early as spring, after the legislature tackles more pressing issues such as job growth and the budget, and that he will sign the bill.
"It's definitely a pro-gun Legislature," Nik Clark, president of Wisconsin Carry, a two-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and expanding gun rights, told the newspaper.
That's troubling to Jeri Bonavia, executive director of Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort, which opposes any legislation to allow concealed carry on the grounds it will lead to increased danger for individuals and the public.
"We really don't believe that more people carrying guns in public is beneficial in any way," she told the newspaper. "In fact, we think it's harmful."
A college dropout opened fire on a crowd gathered for an event by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Arizona on January 8, killing six people and wounding 13 including Giffords.
The shooting has raised questions about permissive U.S. guns laws. Arizona has a concealed weapon law allowing anyone with a gun to carry it openly without a special permit.
(Reporting by John Rondy, Editing by Greg McCune and Peter Bohan)