A day after a gunman killed five others and himself at the Molson Coors brewery on Wednesday, officials in Milwaukee were busy trying to help the city heal from trauma.
Not state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly.
Kelly held a political fundraiser on Thursday — around 26 hours after the mass murder — at a shooting range in Waukesha County. Kelly is a conservative jurist running against liberal Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky in the April election.
“Tonight!” announced a Facebook post by the Waukesha County Republican Party. “Help return Justice Dan Kelly to the State Supreme Court by attending a fundraiser in his honor at the Wisconsin Firearms Training Center in Brookfield!!!”
The post said money from liberal sources is “pouring into the state to back soft on crime Judge Jill Karofsky.” “Can you help save our courts?” said the post, which carried the hashtag #2A, a reference to the Second Amendment.
How’s that for politically tone-deaf? But there’s more.
The flyer from the Kelly campaign said hosts could give at three levels, including $5,000 for the “50 Cal M2HB” level, a reference to a Browning M2 .50-caliber machine gun.
A $2,500 donation put a supporter at the “25 ACP” level, named for a semi-automatic .25 caliber handgun.
A $1,000 donation was the “10 mm” level, referring to a different semi-automatic handgun.
The cost to attend: $100.
Contributors had the option to shoot at the range and could complete a background check before the fundraiser.
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Courtney Beyer, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party, called the fundraiser “tasteless and disrespectful.”
Beyer then promoted Karofsky’s candidacy, saying the state wants a justice concerned about the issue of gun violence. She then said Kelly has been “bought off by special interests to stand in the way of meaningful progress on gun safety reform.”
Karofsky’s campaign declined to comment.
On Wednesday, 51-year-old Anthony Ferrill shot and killed five co-workers at the Molson Coors brewery before killing himself. It was the largest mass shooting in the Milwaukee area since 2012.
Kelly’s decision to hold the fundraiser at the gun range calls to mind the time former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann wore a National Rifle Association hat to a parade shortly after a mass shooting at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012.
But Kelly campaign officials weren’t issuing any apologies.
Instead, they went on the attack. Kelly was appointed by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
“This attempt by Jill Karofsky’s allies to exploit a horrible tragedy for their own political gain is repulsive, yet unsurprising given the way Judge Karofsky has chosen to run her entire campaign,” said Charles Nichols, campaign manager for Kelly.
Nichols said Kelly’s opponent and her allies don’t seem to get that “constitutional rights are exactly that, rights — regardless of her desire to strip them away.”
Even though the race is officially nonpartisan — and for a judicial seat — the two candidates haven’t really hidden their positions on the issue of gun control.
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In 2017, Kelly wrote a decision barring Madison from banning guns on its buses under a state law permitting people to carry concealed weapons. That law included a provision placing restrictions on what gun laws cities could pass.
“I think that that decision is not a surprise,” Karofsky told the Journal Sentinel this year when asked about that ruling.
The two differ strongly over the 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision that said the right to bear arms is an individual right, not a collective one.
Karofsky said she believes the decision leaves enough wiggle room for communities to pass some gun control laws “so that we’re able to live in a country where we don’t have to send our kids to school for code-red drills.”
In contrast, Kelly said he saw no problems in the high court ruling. He also noted that he owns a shotgun and two hunting rifles and has a concealed weapons permit.
In case there was any doubt, he tweeted a picture of himself at a Brookfield firing range last year.
For the record, that’s the same shooting range where he held the fundraiser last week.
Contact Daniel Bice at (414) 224-2135 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DanielBice or on Facebook at fb.me/daniel.bice.