Fireworks of a different nature followed Madison’s annual “Shake the Lake” celebration on June 29, when several gun shots were fired, sending a wave of panic through event attendees. Multiple sources reported the story, prompting many questions regarding security, what caused the shooting, and how to prevent it from recurring.

A WMTV broadcast on July 1 stated “Madison police say the victim and suspect knew each other, but investigators still haven’t narrowed down a suspect. Experts are now using the weapon and shell casings found at the scene to recover DNA evidence in hopes of pinpointing a suspect.”

A WKOW follow up story on July 3 identified the gunshot victim as 20-year old Eman Kitchen of Madison. “Madison Police Chief Mike Koval Monday said people with possible information on the shooting have not cooperated with police. According to the probable cause statements, a witness says the gunfire broke out after a fight between Kitchen’s brother, Javonte Kitchen and another individual.”

The story and any follow up regarding proceedings have fallen off the news cycle. While any shooting is horrific, once it was shown this altercation was between people who were acquaintances and related to a fight, the media frenzy quickly died down, as it didn’t fit into any gun control narratives.

The shooting was immediately politicized by Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway. In a WMTV news story from June 30, Rhodes-Conway said “I will be working with the police and other city staff to see what measures can be taken to enhance security at this event and other public events. But our job is made more difficult by a state legislature that advances reckless gun laws and at the same time curtails the rights of cities to take further action.”

Rhodes-Conway didn’t waste any time characterizing the incident as an excuse to promote radical gun control in contrast with state law. She didn’t wait until any investigation was complete, as the story was too hot to waste on facts.

In a rush to judgment, she was essentially placing blame for the gunfire on the Republican-controlled legislature. In a WKOW story on July 1, “Rhodes-Conway said she wished the city had the authority to implement its own gun restrictions. In 1995, state lawmakers revoked the ability for municipalities to implement their own gun laws.”

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The State Legislature has been in session a whole bunch of times between 1995 and 2019. Eight years, 2002-2010, with Democrats controlling both the Legislature and governor’s mansion. Ample time to change the law if merited. Perhaps the law is based on rational thought, not on the impulse of a momentary rush to judgment.

She blamed the Legislature for passing Concealed Carry back in 2011. Did the perp have a Concealed Carry Permit? Reported in an Aug. 10, 2016, Daily Wire story, “A newly-released report suggests that concealed carry permit holders are the most law-abiding citizens in the U.S. The report, written by Crime Prevention Research Center president John Lott, notes it is “very rare for permit holders to violate the law.”

We don’t know whether the guns were owned legally. Gunfacts.info research shows 93% of guns used in crimes are obtained illegally, from a 1999 Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms study. One reason more recent data is unavailable, from a March 12, 2018, Politifact story is, “Congress since the 1990s has had an effective ban on federal taxpayer money being spent on research into gun violence as a public health issue and gun control advocacy by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Instead of blaming society or the firearm for the shooting, responsibility for the criminal act needs to lie with those who committed the crime. A more appropriate response to the news of the shooting would have been for Rhodes-Conway to make a strident statement of this nature, “The use of firearms at a public event won’t go unpunished. Let this be a clear message the city of Madison will pursue the perpetrators and we assure the public they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We ask for the public’s cooperation in providing any information. This incident unnecessarily put many lives at risk. This behavior is inappropriate and will not be tolerated.”

What would you rather hear? A stern message upholding the law or sending a virtue-signaling response blaming law-abiding citizens who happen to possess firearms? It’s clear Madison chose the latter.

Our Capitol city is wonderful in many ways, yet its leadership has a distinctly progressive stance often lacking in practical solutions. In 1978, former Gov. Lee Dreyfus famously quipped Madison was “30 square miles surrounded by reality.” Madison has grown substantially in size since that comment some 40 years ago, but not much has changed.

Scott Frostman lives in Baraboo and has roots throughout Wisconsin. He believes anyone can make a difference and can be reached at scfrostman@gmail.com.

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