Shootout Deaths of Two Officers Prompt Renewed Calls for ‘Red Flag’ Laws


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By Pat Kreitlow

April 17, 2023

More than 80%of Wisconsinites support a process where someone determined to be a threat to themselves or others could temporarily lose access to their guns via a court order. Suspect had previously threatened to kill cops.

A western Wisconsin legislator is renewing a call for the state to adopt Extreme Risk Protection Temporary Restraining Orders—also known as “Red Flag” laws—in the wake of the shooting deaths of two law enforcement officers in Barron County by a suspect who had previously threatened to kill police or deputies.

Officers Emily Breidenbach, 32, of the Chetek Police Department and Hunter Scheel, 23, of the Cameron Police Department were killed by Glen Perry, 50, of New Auburn during a traffic stop on April 8. The state Department of Justice—which is handling the investigation—said the officers pulled Perry over to check on his welfare after local departments received “notice of concerning behavior.” 

Perry had previous run-ins with law enforcement, after an investigation into a domestic violence incident in 2020. The criminal complaint related to that case noted that Perry had told family members he would kill any cops who tried to respond to future incidents. Perry was also killed in the shootout.

Rep. Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) said the case is an example of why Wisconsin legislators need to start a conversation about red flag laws, even though many of her Republican colleagues have acted in the past to loosen gun safety laws rather than bolster them.

”Nothing frustrates me more than to see protections that we might have had in place, if we could’ve had this conversation in Wisconsin, that might have protected our officers from this situation from outside themselves,” Emerson said on UpNorthNews Radio. “It’s time Wisconsin has this conversation.”

Only 19 states have red flag laws, which allow someone to petition a court to hear evidence and determine if guns need to be removed from a person who has demonstrated being a potential threat to themselves or others. Each state determines who is authorized to initiate the process—whether it is limited to family members and law enforcement or a wider array of individuals including co-workers, school officials, medical professionals, and current or former unmarried partners. Opponents of red flag laws incorrectly claim there is a lack of due process for the person others fear could use a gun in a violent attack.

“If you’re a responsible gun owner, nobody is going to take anything away from you,” Emerson said. “The only time a gun is removed is when you are a threat to yourself or others. Nobody wants guns to be in the hands of somebody who is a threat to themselves or others.”

Last June, a Marquette University Law School poll of Wisconsin voters found 81% of respondents think the state should adopt a red flag law—equal to the large, bipartisan margin also seen in 2019. 

Unfortunately, it often takes a tragedy to overcome political inertia. Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Lee only issued an executive order covering red flag provisions and stronger background checks in the wake of a school shooting in Nashville and the resulting public backlash, when Republican legislators focused on expelling two Democratic members for speaking out against the lack of gun safety support.

In last year’s Wisconsin gubernatorial debate, Republican Tim Michels downplayed the seriousness of threats made by people toward domestic partners, coworkers, or cops—saying he was more concerned that “a disgruntled ex” could claim to be afraid, and have their ex-partner’s guns confiscated. 

And in this year’s legislative session, the only Republican action related to guns is a recently introduced bill that would allow teachers to have loaded guns in classrooms if they are properly certified and if school districts allow it.


  • Pat Kreitlow

    The Founding Editor of UpNorthNews, Pat was a familiar presence on radio and TV stations in western Wisconsin before serving in the state Legislature. After a brief stint living in the Caribbean, Pat and wife returned to Chippewa Falls to be closer to their growing group of grandchildren. He now serves as UNN's chief political correspondent and host of UpNorthNews Radio, airing weekday mornings 6 a.m.-8 a.m on the Civic Media radio network and the UpNorthNews Facebook page.

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