MADISON, Wis. — Everytown for Gun Safety and its grassroots networks, Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, released the following statement in response to news of the arrest of an armed man who entered the Wisconsin Capitol twice on Wednesday seeking the Governor. According to police reports, on Wednesday, Joshua “Taco” Pleasnick was arrested after illegally bringing a handgun into the Wisconsin Capitol, demanding to see Governor Tony Evers. After being arrested and posting bail, Pleasnick returned to the capitol with a loaded assault rifle. He was arrested for the second time that day. Open carry of firearms is prohibited in the state capitol building in Wisconsin.
“The news out of Madison is deeply troubling, and we’re relieved that Governor Evers, who is a steadfast gun sense champion, was not hurt,” said Tracey Scherr, a volunteer with the Wisconsin chapter of Moms Demand Action. “In a nation awash in both guns and extremism, places that should be symbols of democracy are increasingly seen as potential targets.”
This incident is just the latest in a series of violent threats against public officials. Last year, Evers appeared on a target list of a man accused of fatally shooting a retired county judge in 2022. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was the target of a kidnapping plot in 2020.
The carrying of firearms at state capitols and political demonstrations has become emblematic of the rise in antidemocratic extremism. Nearly half of states have policies prohibiting public carry of long guns on some portion of capitol grounds and/or at political protests. Wisconsin does not have this measure. White supremacists and anti-government extremists have sought to undermine our institutions with armed protests that too often escalate to violence. Data shows at least 85 instances of armed protestors and incidents involving guns at protests at state capitols from May through December 2020.
Wisconsin has weak gun laws. Wisconsin has no law requiring background checks on unlicensed gun sales or Extreme Risk law to allow family members or law enforcement to petition for the temporary removal of guns from dangerous situations. In an average year, 678 people die and 1,028 are wounded by guns in Wisconsin. Gun violence in Wisconsin costs $1,448 per person each year. Gun deaths and injuries cost Wisconsin $8.4 billion each year, of which $144.3 million is paid by taxpayers.
More information about gun violence in Wisconsin is available here.