Under the Wisconsin Constitution Article I, Section 25 (“The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.”) there is a right to bear arms. But that does not mean anyone may carry a gun in Wisconsin.
Besides Wisconsin law, federal law prohibits certain individuals from possessing firearms. Briefly, federal law does not permit you to have a gun if:
- Are not at least 18 years old to purchase a long gun; 21 to buy a handgun.
- Are a convicted felon.
- Were convicted of a misdemeanor of domestic-violence.
- Are subject of a restraining order.
- Were dishonorably discharged from a branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- Are living in the United States unlawfully.
- Are mentally disabled.
Private, person-to-person weapons sales conducted at Wisconsin gun shows or over the Internet are exempt from federal laws and do not require background checks or waiting periods, but only if both the buyer and seller live in Wisconsin.
Similarly, Wisconsin bars certain individuals from gun possession:
- At 18 you can purchase a long gun, and at 21 you can purchase a handgun and/or get a concealed carry license. Note that this is purchase age not possession age. Wisconsin law generally provides that for hunting purposes, the minimum age for possession or control of a firearm is age 12. A person age 12 but under age 14 may not hunt without being accompanied by his or her parent, guardian or a person at least 18 years of age who is designated by the parent or guardian. A young person 12 to 14 years of age also may possess a firearm if he or she is enrolled in instruction under the state hunter education program and is carrying the firearm in a case, unloaded, to or from that class, or is handling or operating the firearm during that class under the supervision of an instructor.
- people convicted of a felony in Wisconsin (or a crime in another state that would have been a felony if it had been committed in Wisconsin)
- people adjudicated delinquent for an act that, if committed by an adult, would have been a felony
- people found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity, a mental disease, defect, or illness, or
- those ordered not to possess a firearm under several specified Wisconsin laws.
Wisconsin also prohibits having a weapon in or near any of the following:
- Secure area of an airport.
- A courthouse or any other area that posts the prohibition of firearms at the site.
- School zones.
- Anywhere while you’re under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- In a boat has the motor running, if a rifle (not a handgun) is loaded
The state preempts all firearm laws in the state and local authorities can’t have Laws/Ordinances against open carry. If you enter any property and the owner/responsible person ask you to leave you must leave. Failure to leave can result in Trespass Charges. The Minimum age for Open Carry is 18. In the past, 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.
Wisconsin requires a concealed carry permit to carry a weapon concealed on (or near) you body or vehicle unless you are in your house, at your place of business, or on your own property. (Wis. Stat. § 941.23(2)(e).) You can carry an unconcealed handgun in a vehicle in Wisconsin but if you come within 1000 foot of a school you can be charged. You can transport within 1000 foot of a school without a permit/license to carry under Federal Code 18 USC 922 if the handgun is unloaded and secured.
A rifle can be stored in sight or concealed but may not have ammunition in the chamber or magazine. It’s best to keep the ammunition in the glove box. It also recommended that the firearm be kept out of reach when driving. Loading, or having a loaded, uncased handgun inside a vehicle was legalized beginning November 1, 2011. The firearm must not be “hidden from ordinary observation” while inside the vehicle unless the citizen has a license. Upon request by a law enforcement officer who is acting in an official capacity and with lawful authority, a licensee who is carrying a concealed weapon shall display to the officer his or her concealed weapon license.
On December 7, 2011 Governor Walker signed a bill passing a Castle Doctrine for Wisconsin. The bill provides criminal immunity (WI statute 939.48(1m)) and protection from civil suits (WI statute 895.62 ) for homeowners or business owners who use a gun in self-defense while on their property, with the presumption that any action is justified. The law is a “stand your ground” law, which does not contain a duty to retreat. This applies at the user’s private vehicle, business, and at their home. Protection extends to improvements only (driveway, sidewalk, patio, fence, garage, house…), not bare ground. Also, the criminal must have forcibly entered, or be in the process of attempting to forcibly enter, and the defender must be present in the home, car, or business.
Machine guns (fully automatic firearms) are legal if the firearm is registered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (BATFE), and the owner has received permission from the local sheriff or chief of police (941.26), or the weapon is exempted per statute 941.27. Short-barrel rifles and shotguns are legal if they are registered with ATF, state statute 941.28. Suppressors are legal if they are registered with ATF, statute 941.298