Mass shooting in Milwaukee as states try to stop gun violence

Five people were killed when a gunman open fired at a Milwaukee brewery Wednesday. This gun violence incident comes as several states are revisiting gun control measures and Second Amendment rights. It is the fourth mass shooting of 2020. 

Morry Gash/AP
Police work outside the Molson Coors Brewing Co. campus in Milwaukee on Feb. 26, 2020, after reports of a shooting. The last mass shooting in the Milwaukee area was in August 2012, when white supremacist Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people at a Sikh temple.

An employee opened fire Wednesday at one of the nation's largest breweries in Milwaukee, killing five fellow workers before taking his own life, police said. The assailant who attacked the Molson Coors complex was identified as a Milwaukee man who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"There were five individuals who went to work today, just like everybody goes to work, and they thought they were going to go to work, finish their day, and return to their families. They didn’t – and tragically they never will," Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said.

Authorities offered no immediate motive for the attack and did not release details about the shooter or how the shooting unfolded.

The Milwaukee shooting comes at a time when many states are revisiting gun control and Second Amendment issues.

  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a red-flag gun bill Tuesday that will allow state district courts to order the temporary surrender of firearms, and she urged sheriffs to resign if they refuse to enforce it.
  • The Virginia Senate voted Wednesday to advance two pieces of Gov. Ralph Northam's proposed gun-control measures after previously rejecting them. They would require gun owners to report to police any lost or stolen firearms and to toughen the penalty for leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in a reckless manner that endangers a child.
  • New Hampshire legislature has been working this month on bills that impose a three-day waiting period between the purchase and delivery of a gun and require background checks for commercial gun sales. On Tuesday, The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee heard emotional testimonies on a bill that would allow state agencies to destroy weapons voluntarily surrendered by the public. 
  • Arizona's most populous county on Wednesday joined a growing national movement of self-declared "Second Amendment Sanctuaries," which proclaim support for gun ownership rights.

President Donald Trump addressed the Milwaukee shooting before speaking at the White House Wednesday. 

"Our hearts break for them and their loved ones," the president said. "We send our condolences. We’ll be with them, and it’s a terrible thing, a terrible thing."

The attack occurred at a sprawling complex that includes a mix of corporate offices and brewing facilities. The complex is widely known in the Milwaukee area as "Miller Valley," a reference to the Miller Brewing Co. that is now part of Molson Coors.

"Unfortunately, I am devastated to share that we lost five other members of our family in this tragic incident," Molson Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley said in an email sent to employees. "There are no words to express the deep sadness many of us are feeling right now."

He said the office would be closed the rest of the week and the brewery shuttered "for the time being" to give people time to cope.

Before Wednesday's shooting, there had been three mass killings nationwide in 2020, with 12 total victims. All have been shootings. In 2019, there were 44 mass killings, with 224 total victims. The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killings database tracks all U.S. homicides since 2006 involving four or more people killed, not including the offender, over 24 hours regardless of weapon, location, victim-offender relationship, or motive.

The last mass shooting in the Milwaukee area was in August 2012, when white supremacist Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others at a Sikh temple in suburban Oak Creek. Mr. Page killed himself after being wounded in a shootout with police. The worst mass shooting in the area in the past 20 years was in 2005, when seven people were killed and four wounded at a church service in Brookfield, a Milwaukee suburb. The shooter killed himself.

Shortly before word of the brewery shooting broke, Wisconsin Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald told reporters in suburban Franklin that state gun laws would not be changing despite a push by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, to do so, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Mr. Evers called lawmakers into special session late last year to consider expanding background checks and allowing guns to be taken from people deemed a threat. But the Republican-controlled Legislature adjourned without action. Mr. Fitzgerald later called the shootings "an act of evil," the Journal Sentinel reported.

At a news conference outside Molson Coors, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes said, "We shouldn’t accept this." He took up the issue later on social media, tweeting: "Another avoidable uniquely American tragedy. It’s not normal, we should never accept it, and we should never relent when 'leaders' offer hollow thoughts and prayers but choose inaction."

This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP writers Dave Kolpack in Fargo, North Dakota; Meghan Hoyer in Washington; Scott Bauer and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin; Amy Forliti and Tim Sullivan in Minneapolis; Terry Tang in Phoenix, Arizona; Morgan Lee in Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire contributed to this report.

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