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On Behalf of | Feb 8, 2024 | Firm News

Notice | No Firearms Allowed On Premises

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.”
–  Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

The law uses words like a carpenter uses a hammer and nail. Words are the tools by which meaning is expressed. But words mean exactly what they mean, no more and no less.

In Wisconsin, the owner or occupant of land can post a sign. The sign must be at least 11 inches square and placed in at least 2 conspicuous places for every 40 acres to be protected. The sign must provide an appropriate notice and the name of the person giving the notice followed by the word “owner” if the person giving the notice is the holder of legal title to the land and by the word “occupant” if the person giving the notice is not the holder of legal title but is a lawful occupant of the land. Wis. Stat. Sec 943.13 (1m)(c) and (2)(am) which prohibits firearms from being carried on to the premises or land.

Wisconsin has interpreted “firearm” to mean a weapon that acts by force of gunpowder to fire a projectile, including such a weapon in its disassembled state. Wis. Stat.§ 167.31 (1) (c); State v. Rardon, 185 Wis. 2d 701 (Ct. App. 1994). Likewise a “handgun” is defined as “any weapon designed or redesigned, or made or remade, and intended to be fired while held in one hand and to use the energy of an explosive to expel a projectile through a smooth or rifled bore.” Wis. Stat. 175.35( I )(b). This is similar to the federal definition of “firearm” under 18 U.S.C. § 921 (a) (3) (but federal law specifically excludes antique firearm from this definition) and 26 U.S. Code§ 5845 (a).

So, does a notice excluding firearms also exclude guns? Not if the gun does not use the force of gunpowder or the energy of an explosive. So if a gun fires a projectile by air, such as BB guns, airsoft guns, and paintball guns, a person is not on notice that the gun is prohibited. Wisconsin law uses the term “electric weapon” to refer to any device that’s designed, used, or meant to be used to immobilize or incapacitate someone with an electric current (Wis. Stat. § 941.295 (2019)). A prohibition of guns or electic weapon is questionable given Caetano v. Massachusetts, 577 U.S. 411 (2016) (per curiam) (Supreme Court of the United States unanimously vacated a Massachusetts conviction of a woman who carried a stun gun for self-defense) (“the Second Amendment extends, prima facie, to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding,” District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U. S. 570, 582 (2008))

If you have questions, Attorney Paul Ksicinski is here for you. Contact him at 414-363-4331.