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NEWS STORIES

Under the Gun: The State of Gun Violence in Wis.Submitted: 02/13/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm


MILWAUKEE - Owning a gun is a right in America in a way that doesn't exist in any other part of the world.

It's also at the heart of a vibrant sporting culture we're very familiar with here in the Northwoods.

But other parts of the state have a more contentious relationship with guns.

Newswatch 12's Lyndsey Stemm was allowed to ride along with Milwaukee police officers. She sat down with the Chief of Police and the County Sheriff.

Up here in the North gun violence is statistically rare, but in some parts of Milwaukee, there's a battle going on between police and criminals.

"My God, there's 300 million weapons out there already," says Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn.

Flynn's officers seize 2,000 of them every year from criminals.

Though Milwaukee can be portrayed as a hotbed of crime, in reality only eight percent of city territory accounts for 90 percent of its violent crime.

"There are different kinds of gun violence. And I think the tragedy in Newtown has certainly focused the attention of our citizens on one type of gun violence. And that is the low probability, high hazard event of a mass murder," says Flynn.

Milwaukee police have had to deal with two in just a few short months.

"Both Azana Spa and Sikh temple shooting put our bomb techs right on the front line," says Captain Jason Smith, Milwaukee Police Intelligence Commander.

"The other type of violence is hand gun-related, and central city-related. And it's very much the phenomenon of people who are engaged in criminal enterprises murdering each other," says Flynn.

"A lot of guns are taken in burglaries," says Timothy Keller, an officer with the Milwaukee Police Department Tactical Enforcement Unit.

It does happen. But only eight to ten percent of guns used in crimes are stolen. There are other methods criminals are using to get their hands on guns.

"If they're not stolen you can get the straw purchases. We'll see cases like that here in local gun stores," says Keller.

"What we found was a large number of women that were purchasing the guns and then they ended up in a felon's hands," says Dr. Mallory O'Brien, from the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission.

That leaves law enforcement with the problem of how to keep criminals from getting guns, and finding the line between appropriate gun control and infringing on second amendment rights.

"The percentage of people who use firearms to commit violence, versus the overall population of gun owners... it's very small," says Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke.

"I think what you have to recognize, is where you stand on this issue often directly relates to where you live and your experience with firearms," says Flynn.

But people on the front lines dealing with gun violence agree it's not just a big city problem.

"Well it's not my problem. Well I guess it's not my problem if the right of an American to safety depends on their zip code, I guess It's not your problem," says Flynn.

Tomorrow we'll see how Chief Flynn and Sheriff Clarke think we should go about finding that balance between gun control and second amendment rights.

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 IN OTHER NEWS

ONEIDA COUNTY - Back in November, a 20-year-old Rhinelander man drove and crashed his car after a night of drinking, killing his best friend in the passenger seat.

That driver will now spend nine months in jail.

Randall J. Lego was sentenced in Oneida County Court on Friday. 

He faced two charges of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle.

According to court documents, Lego's car hit a power pole on River Road just outside Rhinelander.

The passenger, 23-year-old Jacob Juedes, was dead at the scene. Juedes was a husband and father of a young daughter.

Oneida County Circuit Court Judge Patrick O'Melia said it was a tragic set of circumstances.

"The only aggravating factor here, and when I say that I don't mean to diminish the loss here, but is the result of this accident," O'Melia said. "That is the only thing that is not in your favor, which is the result of the action and the permanency of it."

Some witnesses testified to Lego's character and pleaded with the judge to not give jail time.

But, Judge O'Melia sentenced Lego to nine months in jail and seven years probation.

"There's a lot of people in the community who have strong feelings about what should happen," O'Melia said. "But the court can't sentence on community anger or community empathy."

Lego must also complete 200 hours of community service, for which Judge O'Melia wants Lego to speak to kids and teens about his experience. 




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ANTIGO - You can spot plenty of wildlife in orthern Wisconsin. However, you don't typically see a black belly barbado sheep or a royal palm turkey.

You can go check them out at the new It's All Good Farmstand and Petting Zoo right off Highway 45 in Antigo.

The It's All Good Farmstand and Petting Zoo has a simple goal. It wants people to see interesting animals.
"We decided, what the heck, we should open something to the public to so that everybody that does not have farm critters and enjoy them like we do, can come in and pet the critters and learn a lot of stuff," said owner Cheryl Wirz.

Wirz decided to have her family be part of her staff. It's something she really enjoys.

"I love the fact that my kids are here and they're getting a hands on experience," said Wirz.

"I mostly help load and unload the animals from home to here. Also, I fill up all the water when we get here, and I run the food booth," said staff member and son Aiden Wirz.

That all adds up to work for their kids and there are some perks to working for your parents.

"Mostly, they can't fire me," said Aiden, laughing.

Most animals look familiar to the guests when they come right up to them, but what about the specific breeds?

"We try to promote rare and critically endangered breeds of farm animals. Most people don't even know what they are," said Cheryl Wirz.

The Wirz family is also passionate about the quality of food for their animals.

"We do all organic produce and all of our critters eat all organic. In fact, we grow most of their food," said Cheryl Wirz.

Some young kids might be a litte nervous of the animals at first, but the friendly staff is there to help.

"Little ones will be really nervous and scared, but after awhile they're calmed down and they really love it," said staff member Natasha Lewer.

Even with all the hard work that goes into owning a farm, the happy visitors make it all worth it.

"They light up when they're in there. We had a gentleman that was in a wheelchair and all the animals surrounded him and he was just smiling from ear to ear," said Cheryl Wirz.

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RHINELANDER - If you shopped at Walmart in Rhinelander this summer, you probably noticed things weren't where they usually belong.

That's because crews were busy giving the store a fresh, new look.

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MANITOWOC - Police have arrested a Manitowoc woman after she allegedly pulled a gun on a man during an argument over a duck.

USA Today Network-Wisconsin reports the 69-year-old woman approached her neighbor on Wednesday evening in attempt to show him that she didn't have his duck.

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BOULDER JUNCTION - Six months ago, Roger Zerbe had never tried beard balm. But when he went to go buy some, he ran into some difficulties.

"We drove all over Wausau trying to find some, and we couldn't find any," said Zerbe.

Instead of just ordering some off the internet, Zerbe and his girlfriend, Dana Buehler, decided to make their own.

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MERRILL - Bryson Cruise hopes the watermelon he blew up Friday morning is the closest anyone gets to an injury this weekend.

But the Merrill firefighter and paramedic knows chances are he'll likely respond to humans instead of fruit the next three days.

"It becomes a pretty busy weekend pretty quick," Cruise said.

Friday, Cruise and members of the Merrill Fire Department set off mortar shells and firecrackers demonstrating how quickly a fun holiday activity can turn into a trip to the ER.

"About 55 percent of those are related to your hands, arms, legs, kind of the extremities of your body," Cruise said.

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MINOCQUA - The campus at Lakeland Union High School will add an iconic piece to the area. The school is looking at different places to put the old T-Bird Country Bridge.

The bridge is in the process of being removed because it isn't tall enough. A group then donated it to LUHS.

The school is now looking at three different options on where to put it.

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