Wisconsin Background Check and Gun Laws
Wisconsin is one of two states that completely prohibit concealed carry by private citizens. Open carry is legal except where prohibited by law (vehicles, government buildings, schools, establishments that sell liquor for consumption on the premises, state parks, and 1000' from the edge of school property unless on private property)." Some jurisdictions have tried to prosecute open-carry by equating the open carry of handguns with disorderly conduct. On April 20, 2009 the Wisconsin attorney general's office released a memorandum to all law enforcement agencies stating that mere open carry of a firearm was not disorderly conduct, and instructed both law enforcement and the district attorneys to cease this practice. Inside vehicles, the firearm must be both unloaded and encased; having a loaded firearm on the front seat was held to be concealed and therefore illegal in a 1994 case. Bills to enact "shall-issue" were twice vetoed by Governor Jim Doyle in January 2004 and again in January 2005 after passing in both houses of the Wisconsin legislature. In 2005, the Assembly fell two votes short of overriding Doyle's veto. In 2006, Governor Jim Doyle stated "you want to carry a gun in Wisconsin, wear it on your hip."
Possession of a firearm while intoxicated, shooting within 100 yards (91 m) of a home without permission, pointing a weapon at anyone except in self-defense, and negligent handling of a weapon are all outlawed. Statute 941.20
Carrying a concealed weapon is a class A misdemeanor, state statute 941.23. This is any "weapon", not just firearms. Knives are legally defined as "dangerous weapons".
Going armed in any building owned/leased by the government is a class A misdemeanor, state statute 941.235.
Carrying a handgun where alcohol is sold/consumed is generally a class A misdemeanor, state statute 941.237.
Armor-piercing ammunition prohibited in handguns when committing a crime. Statute 941.296.
"No person may carry or display a facsimile firearm in a manner that could reasonably be expected to alarm, intimidate, threaten or terrify another person", unless on your own property or business, or that of another person with their consent. Statute 941.2965.
Wisconsin has a state pre-emption law that generally forbids cities from passing firearms ordinances more strict than that of state law. Statute 66.0409. This doesn't affect zoning regulations, which is why only one Madison gun shop sold handguns. That shop, along with others as well as the only gun club in Middleton, have closed.
Committing a crime while possessing a dangerous weapon is a penalty enhancer. Statute 939.63.
It is a felony to possess a firearm if you:
Have been convicted of a felony
Committed a felony as a juvenile
Have been found not guilty of a felony by reason of mental disease or defect
Have been committed under mental health laws and ordered not to possess a firearm
Are the subject of a domestic-abuse or child-abuse restraining order
Are ordered not to possess firearms as a subject of a harassment restraining order.
Any person who knowingly provides a firearm to an ineligible person is party to a felony crime. Statute 941.29
Buying and selling
There is a 48-hour waiting period on handgun purchases from an FFL dealer (does not apply to private sales): Statute 175.35
Rifles and shotguns can be purchased in a contiguous state as long as the purchase complies with Federal law and the laws of the contiguous state. Statute 175.30
State parks and wildlife refuges
Statute 29.089 requires firearms to be unloaded and encased in state parks. There is an exception for hunting when the hunt is administratively approved. Statute 29.091 requires firearms to be encased and unloaded in state wildlife refuges.
Class 3 firearms
Machine guns are legal if you follow BATFE process, state statute 941.27
Short-barrel rifles and shotguns are legal if you follow BATFE process, state statute 941.28
Silencers are legal if you follow BATFE process, statute 941.298
Firearms and minors
It is a class I felony to possess a firearm on school grounds or within 1000' of a school zone. Statute 948.605. This statute does not apply to:
private property not part of school grounds
individuals licensed by the local government body to possess the firearm
unloaded and encased firearms
individuals with firearms for use in a school-approved program
individuals with school contract to possess firearm
law enforcement acting in official capacity
unloaded firearms when traversing school grounds to gain access to hunting land, if the entry is approved by the school.
It is a class G felony to discharge or attempt to discharge a firearm in a school zone. Limited exceptions for private property not part of school grounds, school programs, and law enforcement.
Leaving a firearm within reach of a child under 14 is generally a misdemeanor, if that child points it at anyone or shows it to anyone in a public place. Defenses include having the gun locked in a safe or container, or having a trigger lock on the gun, or removal of a key operating part, or illegal entry by anyone to obtain the firearm, or a reasonable belief a juvenile couldn't access the firearm. Statute 948.55
Firearms retailers are required to provide every buyer with a written warning stating, "If you leave a loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of a child, you may be fined or imprisoned or both if the child improperly discharges, possesses or exhibits the firearm." Statute 175.37
Possession of a dangerous weapon by anyone under 18 is a class A misdemeanor. Giving/loaning/selling a dangerous weapon to someone under 18 is a class I felony. Statute 948.60. Defenses to prosecution under this statute:
Target practice under the supervision of an adult
Members of armed forces under 18 in the line of duty.
For hunting purposes, the following exceptions to the age limit apply, as specified in statute 29.304 for weapons with barrels 12" or longer.
under 10 may not hunt with a firearm or bow under any circumstances
under 10 can only possess firearm/bow in Hunter Safety class, or while cased/unloaded and under adult supervision while going to/from Hunter Safety class, or while under adult supervision while at a target range.
anyone age 10 or over may hunt when accompanied by an adult (within arms reach, both must be licensed, only one firearm/bow between the adult and mentor (no hunter safety course requirement for the mentored hunter).
12-13 may hunt when accompanied by an adult and 12-13 has successfully completed a Hunter Safety class.
12-13 may possess firearm when accompanied by an adult, or while transporting cased/unloaded firearm to/from Hunter Safety class, or in Hunter Safety class
14-17 is the same as 12-13, except Hunter Safety graduates can hunt and possess firearms (rifles/shotguns) without adult supervision.
School students shall be suspended until their expulsion hearing if they possess a firearm in school or during a school event (except if the student is participating in a Hunter Safety Education class). State law requires a minimum one-year expulsion for this offense. Statute 120.13(1)(bm) and 120.13(1)(c)2m. In addition, the student's driver license may be suspended for two years under Statute 938.34(14q). This suspension also applies to bomb threats and CCW violations in government buildings.
Any individual who knowingly possesses a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is a school zone is guilty of a Class I felony. ** unless on private property ** “School” means a public, parochial or private school which provides an educational program for one or more grades between grades 1 and 12 and which is commonly known as an elementary school, middle school, junior high school, senior high school or high school. “School zone” means any of the following: 1. In or on the grounds of a school. 2. Within 1,000 feet from the grounds of a school.
Firearms in vehicles
When openly carrying (the only legal method in Wisconsin) a firearm must be unloaded, cased, and put out of reach when in a vehicle. In this section, unloaded means "Having no shell or cartridge in the chamber of a firearm or in the magazine attached to a firearm" and encased means "enclosed in a case that is expressly made for the purpose of containing a firearm and that is completely zipped, snapped, buckled, tied or otherwise fastened with no part of the firearm exposed." Statute 167.31
Boats: Firearms must be unloaded and encased when the motor is running.
Aircraft: Firearms must be unloaded and encased.
Cars, trucks, motorcycles, ATV, snowmobiles: Firearms cannot be placed in or on a vehicle unless the firearms are unloaded and encased. However, it is legal to "lean an unloaded firearm against a vehicle" although it is not safe. Statute 167.31(4)(d).
Exceptions: Law enforcement officers, military personnel on active duty, landowners and their family and employees on farm tractors inside CWD eradication zones, and disabled hunters with special permits meeting all the requirements.