South of the Beltline, Williamsburg Way branches off Verona Road and runs through a neighborhood where large trees spread their canopies over modest homes. In one of these homes, tucked away behind sky blue siding, is a basement stuffed to the rafters with the clutter of a life well lived.
Fishing rods stand at crooked attention in a wooden rack. Assorted camping paraphernalia lounge around. Evidence of the homeowner's great passion for photography is everywhere. Glossy pictures of springtime waterfalls and autumn leaves are scattered on a long table. Prized specimens are matted, framed and hung.
It is a cozy, concrete-floored refuge filled with the possessions of a man who has successfully pursued his happiness. Everything is laid out for visitors to see, like exhibits in a personal museum. Everything, that is, except the guns.
Bill Maund, 71, has been curator of this exhibit for 35 years, and it is unlikely that a single bullet has been left unattended, for he is a responsible gun owner. The only signs of the major role that firearms have played in his life are a scattering of shooting awards, a snapshot of his petite wife, Kyoko, holding a gigantic handgun at a firing range, and a chest-high floor safe set into one wall.
Maund's collection began with a purchase at a sporting goods store in New York City. Signs in the window promoted an early bear hunt upstate. Tired of 'living in all those concrete caverns so divorced from nature,' Maund bought a shotgun, drove to Lake Placid and wandered the woods for a weekend. He never even pushed a shell into the chamber.
Later, Maund came to love the thrill of sport shooting, becoming an expert at hitting a clay target still on the rise. He calls the requisite aim, motion and timing 'like golf with a gun.'
But for Maund, more and more, guns hold weightier significance. He has noticed insidious changes in his neighborhood. Threats marching inexorably toward his house. He has been taking stock of what he has, and what it would mean to lose it. Despite his apparent idyllic domestication, Maund does not sleep in comfort when he locks his door at night.
'I wish that we could live in a society where I wouldn't have to be frightened,' Maund says from the makeshift office in his basement, 'But, frankly, I'm frightened living here. Right here, in this house.'
This unease keeps Maund alert on his nightly walks with his black Lab, Zip. Last year, he found a purse in the park across the street that held an empty wallet and not much else, what Maund calls an 'obvious theft-and-discard.' He says he sees gang graffiti on signs at the neighborhood park and found a throwing knife on his property.
Not long ago, someone rang his doorbell in the early evening, but Maund didn't answer. The next night, on the way out the door with Zip, he spotted a figure in his yard, halfway down the driveway. Before Maund could say anything, the silhouetted figure quietly turned and walked away. It is enough, Maund says, to make anyone feel threatened.
'There's heightened alertness on my part,' he says, 'extra security, where I have to lock myself in my own house, being uncomfortable with leaving a window open in the summertime. And it's not paranoia on my part. It's real evidence.'
In her new book, Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy, author Joan Burbick probes the psyche of gun owners. She concludes that the language of gun rights is founded on a historical narrative of America's past, one that stresses 'rugged individualism' and Wild West bravura.
Contrary to popular belief, Burbick writes, the political movement to protect gun ownership is not something 'passed down from our muzzle-loading forefathers.' Rather, the modern pro-gun movement is relatively new, a product of the turbulent 1960s.
At the heart of the debate are varying interpretations of the Second Amendment. The amendment is only one sentence long, and open to interpretation: 'A well-regulated militia, being necessary to a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.'
Pro-gun lobbies have always focused on the last half of the amendment, the 'right of the people.' It is straightforward, and easy to rally behind. But to single out only these words effectively removes government from the equation. Burbick contends this would have 'disturbed our founding fathers,' who were clear to reference a well-regulated militia.
That's the essential divide: Whether bearing arms is a collective or an individual right. Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, have ruled it to be collective. The gun lobby thinks otherwise.
Believing that private gun ownership is at the heart of self-preservation, gun advocates bristle at restrictions of any sort ' bans on certain types of guns and ammunition; waiting periods for anyone seeking to buy a firearm; registries to keep tabs on citizens who own certain weapons.
This mindset has also made passing a law allowing Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons a cause cÃlÃbre among gun advocates. They point to such laws in other states as proof that their system of self-protection ensures civic safety.
The watershed moment for concealed carry in America occurred in the mid-1990s. Although some states already allowed the practice, a dramatic spike in crime rates across the nation and relentless lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA) prompted a majority of others to adopt concealed-carry laws. Today, only Washington D.C., Illinois and Wisconsin bar all forms of concealed carry, although some states restrict this privilege to only a few.
Advocates of these laws like to cite the subsequent drop in national crime rates as proof that this method was a smashing success. But, in the late 1990s, crime dropped in all states, and the evidence is, if anything, muddled.
Gun groups often point to Vermont, saying its lack of regulations on concealed carry has made it the 'safest state in the nation.' Actually, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Vermont ranks a respectable 48th in terms of violent crime rates. Meanwhile, Wisconsin, where carrying concealed weapons is not allowed, has the 43rd highest rate.
And then there is Minnesota. For years, that state had a 'may issue' system, where law enforcement officials have discretion on whether to grant licenses, which in effect made them available to only a few. But in 2003 it switched to a 'shall issue' system, meaning that citizens who meet the requirements can't be denied.
Now the state is seeing an alarming rise in violent crime, especially in the Twin Cities. Mary-Lewis Grow, a longtime board member of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota, says no public health studies support concealed carry as a means of lowering crime rates.
'I don't want to say there is a direct cause/effect relationship' between the new concealed-carry law and the rise in violent crime, she says. 'But what you can clearly say is that the claims of the gun lobby that it will make crime go down are patently false.'
Such laws, Grow notes, are rarely the result of a large public movement. Lawmakers aren't necessarily responding to a groundswell of concerned constituents, but to an impassioned and well-organized lobby.
In Missouri, for example, voters in 1999 rejected a referendum to allow concealed carry. But the lobbying did not cease, and four years later, the state passed the law anyway. '[The pro-gun lobby] makes life miserable for legislators,' says Grow. 'Eventually they say, 'I just want them to leave me alone.''
To Grow, the spate of concealed-carry legislation amounts to making laws to suit the psychological needs of the few. 'I don't think these people even represent the mainstream of gun owners,' she says, 'but because they do have this borderline paranoid personality, this becomes their life.'
While gun-rights issues don't define Bill Maund's life, their influence is undeniable. He is a longtime member of the NRA. He was once a nationally ranked pistol shooter. He's written about shooting for publications like American Handgunner. And he has been a passionate, articulate and successful spokesman for the right to bear arms.
In 1993, Maund served as chair of the Madison-Area Citizens Against Crime. In that post, he played a pivotal role in shooting down Mayor Paul Soglin's proposed ban on handguns in the city of Madison. Since then, Maund has continued his advocacy, giving speeches and volunteering in campaigns.
This is an impressive record considering that, as a boy growing up in Philadelphia, Maund had little exposure to gun culture and was drawn to a completely different kind of shooting ' with cameras. When he was 11 years old, Maund was gravely ill and almost lost his sight. Upon recovering, he received a photography kit as a gift from his parents. He never looked back.
By the end of high school, he was doing portraits and weddings. He joined the Air Force and traveled the world, producing picture stories and short films for the service. After that, there was art school in the San Francisco Bay Area, then a short stint at grad school at the University of Michigan.
Maund worked as a photographer for the Philadelphia Inquirer and ran a small film company in New York City, but he never felt comfortable there. He began looking for places better suited for raising a family, and landed in Madison. He worked as a film and television producer for the University of Wisconsin for 30 years, including the last 20 at Wisconsin Public Television, before retiring. It is here, in Wisconsin, that he became
immersed in gun culture, honing his skills at hunting, sport shooting and lobbying.
Like many advocates, Maund starts with a deep distrust of the federal government. Regulations on guns are, effectively, regulations on gun owners. And any victory by those pushing for gun control, no matter how small, only adds to the slow erosion of gun owners' rights.
'There is a lot of mystery for people who don't know anything about guns,' he says, 'a lot of imagery that is just really inappropriate and sheer ignorance.'
It is this view that brought Maund into the battle against Madison's proposed handgun ban. He argued that a ban on handguns was pointless because Madison didn't have a handgun problem. As he told the Wisconsin State Journal, 'there is not a bloodbath going on in Madison.'
Fourteen years later, Maund is still passionately supportive of gun rights. But now he sees Madison as an increasingly dangerous place to be: 'As an American citizen under the Constitution, I have a legal right to defend myself, and I see a growing need to do that.'
The movement to allow Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons hinges on this fear. While supporters stress civic concern and responsibility, the idea boils down to action-movie logic: Get the bad guy before he gets you.
Time and again, concealed-carry advocates tell anecdotes of shootings in public places or of unarmed victims being abducted. When they push for a change in the law, they are essentially pushing for increased scenarios in which would-be criminals are taken down by civic saviors with true aim and a steady trigger finger. Complete trust is placed in gun owners' ability to respond to tense situations with clear heads and clean shots.
On the extreme end of this vision sits Wisconsin Gun Owners Inc., which proudly bills itself as the state's only 'no compromise' gun lobby group. It is, certainly, the loudest and most persistent voice in the debate. In the 2005-06 legislative session, it even outspent the National Rifle Association, $147,944 to $129,612, on lobbying efforts, according to the Wisconsin Ethics Board. That's no small feat given the huge push the NRA has made to drag the last remaining states into concealed-carry territory.
While officers and spokespeople for Wisconsin Gun Owners did not respond to numerous interview requests, the group promises on its Web site to never 'sell gun owners out to Madison interests.' It also claims that, because of the concealed-carry ban, 'countless 'victims' have been raped, assaulted and even murdered.' Wisconsin's 135-year-old law is described in one word: 'deadly.'
Last year, a bill to allow concealed weapons sailed through the state Senate and Assembly. Gov. Jim Doyle vetoed the measure, as he's done before, and a veto override attempt came up two votes shy of the necessary two-thirds majority.
Since then, Doyle has won reelection and Democrats have made gains in both houses. Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch (R-West Salem), noting its bipartisan support, has suggested that concealed carry will be revived this session. But Democratic control of the state Senate seriously undercuts its chance of passage, or even coming to a vote.
For Wisconsin Gun Owners Inc., this is no big loss, because the group disapproved of Wisconsin's concealed-carry bill. What it wants is known as Vermont-style concealed carry. Gun owners wishing to carry a weapon would need no license or training certification; they would simply have to show they are U.S. citizens, 16 or older, and not felons.
In the group's quarterly newsletter, invective is hurled at those who would restrict what citizens can do with their guns. Even longtime concealed-carry supporters like Jim Fendry of the Wisconsin Pro-Gun Movement and Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Village of Waterford), who co-sponsored the latest concealed-carry bill, are dismissed as sellouts to the cause.
Corey Graff, Wisconsin Gun Owners' executive director, writes that other gun rights groups assume that state-regulated gun control is inevitable. But he thinks making any concessions to the 'political reality' compromises one's principles. He heeds a truer calling. 'When state politicians send their henchmen out to attack you,' he declares, 'you can be sure that you are shooting straight.'
For most concealed-carry advocates, a system of background checks and licenses is essential to producing effective, responsible legislation. Felons, drug addicts and the mentally ill are not the kinds of people these advocates envision toting guns around.
Larry Gleasman, a supporter of what advocates call 'responsible' gun control, speaks with authority on the attitudes of Wisconsin gun owners. For 30 years, Gleasman has perched behind the counter of Grandpa's Gun Shop on Willy Street. The tiny store is an anachronism, a throwback to times past. Upturned deer legs hold assorted rifles on the wall. Sunlight drifts in dusty, wood-paneled hues. There is a deep, not unpleasant smell of leather and wood.
Gun owners have been stopping in for decades to chat and prepare for the next hunting season. Gleasman believes most of his customers would support a bill that allows concealed-carry rights along with the responsibilities that come from being a gun owner. A no-compromise strategy, he says, serves as nothing more than a roadblock to progress.
'Their ideas are just not going to pass,' Gleasman says, 'Absolutely, you need licenses.'
Like Maund, Gleasman supports concealed carry primarily as a means of self-protection. He talks about a recurring nightmare he had after learning that a gunman went on a shooting rampage at a McDonald's in California. In the nightmare, Gleasman is crouched behind the counter of the restaurant, unable to act.
'But in the dream,' Gleasman says, 'all that goes through my mind is: 'You're an ex-cop, an ex-Marine, owner of a gun shop and an expert marksman. How could you be so stupid as to get yourself into a situation like this?''
Gleasman makes another point central to the concealed-carry movement: He believes it would dissuade potential criminals from acting.
'Look at the rapes on [the UW-Madison] campus,' he says. 'Hell, if you had people out there with guns, you'd think twice about abducting somebody and throwing them in a car. I mean, she might have a gun in her purse.'
If concealed carry were allowed, Gleasman concedes, 'some bad will come with the good.' But he believes citizens must have the tools to protect themselves. As he puts it, 'You can only have so many cops in a city.'
'If concealed carry passed, I would carry,' he says. 'I come from the philosophy that it's better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it.'
Back in Bill Maund's basement, the better-safe-than-sorry idea constantly reemerges. Bill knows he is statistically unlikely to ever be in a situation where he would need a gun. And he knows Williamsburg Way in Madison, Wisconsin, is not the most dangerous place to be. But possibility trumps probability, and Maund asks a hypothetical question: What would you do if you were asleep in bed and someone just broke down your door?
There are only two answers, really. And they reveal a lot about a person. If you are the sort who rarely worries about violent crime, your answer would be, 'Call the police.' But, if you are like Maund and realize that a lock on a door is a mostly symbolic defense, you'll know exactly what to do.
'I mean the police, they're good after the fact, but they can't be with you all the time,' says Maund. 'You don't have that trained civil protection to help you if something like that happens.'
Thinking like this means carrying a weight of worry around all the time. One must always be on guard.
Maund tells of a trip he took with Kyoko and Zip not long ago, one that brought them to Grand Basin National Park in Nevada. It was so far from anywhere that there was absolutely no human light source to obscure the stars. They shone so brightly, Maund says, that a photographer could set up the tripod and get a picture in which, instead of the usual lines of lights arcing across the sky, the stars sat still, in their own tiny pools of light.
Yet a nagging fear remained.
'But, you know,' he says, 'I'm very uneasy sitting out there in the middle of nowhere; a couple of old people are very, very vulnerable.'
This anecdote provides a startling insight into Maund's state of mind. Here he is ' devoted husband, doting grandpa, professional photographer and awestruck sightseer ' sitting by a fire with his wife and his dog. Caught under an impossibly clear sky, miles upon miles from the nearest soul, basking in the soft glow of starlight. And, even here, his peace of mind is only as close as his gun.
When asked if it gets tiring, constantly worrying about needing to suddenly thwart some violent encounter, Maund redefines his vigilance. 'It's not worry,' he says, 'it's concern. And, you know, you take precautions. You just make sure your door is locked and your gun is loaded.'