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“This community needs more than thoughts and prayers.” Black Milwaukee leaders react to shooting

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Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales addresses reporters at a press conference Wednesday evening. Video screen capture.

State legislators from Milwaukee say today’s mass shooting at MillerCoors highlights the need for gun control legislation and better mental health support.

An employee of the brewery shot and killed five other workers before apparently turning his gun on himself.

“We have six grieving families right now,” said State Representative David Crowley, who is also running for Milwaukee County Executive. “My thoughts and prayers are with the families, but you know, this community and these families need more than thoughts and prayers. They need action.”

Crowley said not enough information is available at this point to determine what, if any, gun laws might have prevented today’s shooting. But, he said, that’s no excuse to do nothing.

“We need to be focusing on red flag laws as well as background checks,” he said, referring to legislation proposed in several states that would allow authorities to seize firearms from people in mental health crisis. “At the end of the day, we cannot allow these types of senseless acts to continue to happen. This is horrific. I know that the city of Milwaukee is definitely grieving, thinking about how we just had another mass shooting, but at the same time, this is occurring too often to where some of us are desensitized to the fact that this was happening across the country.”

Crowley noted that Governor Tony Evers called a special session to address gun legislation earlier this year, but Republican legislative leadership convened only to adjourn less than a minute later.

“We’ve seen what has happened across this state, even inside the schools where, young people had brought some guns, some firearms to the school systems and that has set off bells, and there was still no reaction from any of my colleagues,” Crowley said. “For us, it’s just, how do we move forward and make sure that we can stop this from occurring in the future.”

State Senator Lena Taylor, who is also running for Milwaukee mayor, said it’s impossible to know whether gun laws would have been effective in stopping today’s tragedy.

“I don’t know if this was a person who bought his gun yesterday, from a gun shop or from somewhere else, or if he had a (concealed carry) license or any of that,” Taylor said. “This is really a reflection of the mental health crisis that exists in the city and the need for us to have a way and a place for people to go who are in crisis so that we are able to help them through that before people lose their lives.”

The shooting at MillerCoors, where about 1,000 people work, is the largest in Wisconsin since 2012, when a white supremacist killed six people and himself at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek. 

In a press conference Wednesday evening, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said victims would not be publicly identified for at least 24 more hours.

Taylor said the perpetrator, a 51-year-old man, was a resident of her district. Representatives of the Milwaukee Police Department did not immediately respond to messages seeking to confirm his identity.