Gun laws in Wisconsin

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Location of Wisconsin in the United States

Gun laws in Wisconsin regulate the sale, possession, and use of firearms and ammunition in the state of Wisconsin in the United States.

Summary table[edit]

Subject/Law Relevant Statutes Notes
Constitutional Right to Bear Arms Yes 1:25 "The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose."
State Preemption of local restrictions? Yes 66.0409
State Permit to Purchase? No 175.35
Concealed carry license issued? Handguns 175.60 Permit is given on a shall-issue basis. Concealed carry of knives (not intended for use as weapons) is legal without a permit.
Owner license required? No 941.29
Open carry permitted? Handgun, Long gun, Knife 947.01 66.0409 Open carry of loaded handguns and long guns and knives is permitted without a license.
Castle Doctrine/Self Defense Statutes Yes 895.62 Immunity from prosecution and civil damages in the home, with conditions and exceptions
939.48 No duty to retreat in the "dwelling" or owned/operated place of business. No deadly force solely to protect property. 3rd party protection. If attack is provoked, self defense may only be used if reasonable belief of imminent death or great bodily harm. If attack is provoked deadly force only allowed if all other reasonable means of avoidance exhausted.
940.01 "the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the facts constituting the defense did not exist in order to sustain a finding of guilt"
Firearm registration? No
Assault weapon law? No
Magazine capacity restrictions? No
Switchblade law? No[1]
NFA weapons restricted? Machine Guns restricted, exceptions apply 941.298


Suppressors, SBR, and SBS allowed if NFA rules followed, otherwise felony
Background checks required for private sales? No

Constitutional protection[edit]

The Constitution of Wisconsin protects the right to bear arms in Article 1, Section 25 - "The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose."[2]


Wisconsin has state preemption laws which generally forbid cities from passing firearms or knife ordinances stricter than that of state law. Localities may impose a sales or use tax, and may restrict the discharge of firearms (except for self-defense).[3]

On March 8, 2017, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that Madison's Metro Transit rule forbidding firearms on public buses violated the state's preemption law, and that people who are lawfully carrying arms must be allowed to carry on public buses.[4][5]

Concealed carry[edit]

Wisconsin is a shall-issue state for concealed carry licensing. As of November 1, 2011, Wisconsin residents may apply for a concealed carry license through the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The law allows Wisconsin to become the 49th state in the Union to make some provision for the concealed carry of firearms by normal citizens.[6] [7][8]

Open carry[edit]

Open carry is legal anywhere concealed carry is legal. It is legal for all adults who are 18 years of age or older unless they are prohibited from possession of firearms. A license is not required unless in a taxpayer-owned building or within 1000 feet of school property and not on private property.[9]

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.

In 2011 a subsection was added to the Disorderly Conduct statute (947.01 [10]) reading "Unless other facts and circumstances that indicate a criminal or malicious intent on the part of the person apply, a person is not in violation of, and may not be charged with a violation of, this section for loading, carrying, or going armed with a firearm, without regard to whether the firearm is loaded or is concealed or openly carried." This codified open carry, ending any debate as to its legality.

Loading, or having a loaded, uncased handgun inside a vehicle was legalized beginning November 1, 2011.[11] The firearm must not be "hidden from ordinary observation" while inside the vehicle unless the citizen has a license.[12]

Castle Doctrine[edit]

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)[13]) and protection from civil suits (WI statute 895.62 [14]) 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. The Washington County DA ruled that opening a door counts as forcible entry.[15]

The law does not apply if force is used against police while in the line of duty if the shooter knows or should have known that the victim was a police officer or other public safety worker.(WI statute 895.62(4)(b)[13]) The law also does not protect those who are engaged in criminal activity. (WI statute 939.48(1m)(b)(1)[13])

No duty to inform[edit]

Wisconsin is not a "must notify" state. If an officer is "acting in an official capacity and with lawful authority", and the citizen is doing something which requires a license (carrying concealed, or carrying in one of the protected areas), the citizen must show both a carry license and a driver's license upon demand.

WI statute 175.60(2g)(c)[16]

Guns in vehicles[edit]

Beginning November 1, 2011, it is legal to load a handgun, or to transport a loaded handgun cased or uncased, in a vehicle without a license. NOTE: This does NOT apply to long guns; they still must be unloaded, but now may be uncased. There is still some confusion as to whether or not an encased gun is concealed, so if it is cased, best practice is to keep the long gun out of reach. Long guns must be "discernable to ordinary observation", since a conceal carry license does not apply. Previously all firearms had to be unloaded & encased (per the transport statute), & out of reach (derived from the concealed carry statute). Those with a concealed carry license may conceal a pistol in a vehicle.

WI statute 167.31[17]


Pistols may be carried openly without a license, and concealed. Long guns must be unloaded while the motor is running; they are not required to be encased, but must be in plain sight.


Firearms are prohibited on commercial aircraft except in checked baggage. A discussion of federal laws is in this [18] blog post, with links to and quotes from the statutes.

Carry is legal on a private aircraft. With a license a user may carry openly or concealed. Without a license, only open carry is legal.


Anyone on their own property, on-duty 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.

Buying and selling[edit]

Private sales are legal. No background check or governmental permission / registration are necessary. A sales receipt is recommended in case the buyer needs to prove ownership (as when retrieving firearms which have been confiscated by police).

As of July 24, 2015, there is no longer a 48-hour waiting period on handgun purchases from an FFL (does not apply to private sales).

WI statute 175.35 [19]

Rifles and shotguns can be purchased in another state as long as the purchase complies with Federal law and the laws of both states. There is no longer a requirement that the other state be contiguous.[20]

WI statute 175.30 [21]

Title II firearms[edit]

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

State parks, fish hatcheries, and wildlife refuges[edit]

Statute 29.091[22] and 29.089[23] used to require firearms to be encased and unloaded in state wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries. Those who have a concealed carry permit were not subject to these restrictions on handguns.

As of January 2013, anyone who is legal to possess a firearm may openly carry a pistol in a state park without a license. (The law used to say that to possess in a state park, one must be a licensee. That law was removed.) The restriction still applies to fish hatcheries & long guns, and in order to enter a taxpayer-owned building anywhere (including a park) one must be a licensee.

Other laws[edit]

Possession of a firearm while intoxicated, or "materially impaired", shooting within 100 yards of a home without permission, pointing a weapon at anyone except in self-defense, and negligent handling of a weapon are all crimes.[24]

Carrying a concealed weapon without a valid license is a class A misdemeanor. This is any "weapon", not just firearms. This restriction does not apply in one's own home or business. A concealed carry license only covers handguns, tasers, billy clubs, and knives.

WI statute 941.23[8]

Carrying a handgun without a concealed carry license where alcohol is sold AND consumed (the class B establishment - a "tavern", a place which sells alcohol for on-premises consumption) is generally a class A misdemeanor unless you have permission from the owner, manager, or agent of the establishment.

Exceptions are having a license, and that the owner or manager of can give permission for someone (without a license) to carry openly. When carrying (openly or concealed) on a license, alcohol may not be consumed on the premises. When carrying openly with permission of the owner or manager, it is legal to consume alcohol as long as you do not become "materially impaired". It is legal to carry a handgun into a store that sells alcohol for the express purpose of being consumed elsewhere (a liquor or grocery store).

WI statute 941.237[25]

Armor-piercing ammunition when committing a crime upgrades the crime to a Class H felony.

WI statute 941.296 [26]

"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.

WI statute 941.2965 [27]

Committing a crime while possessing a dangerous weapon is a penalty enhancer.

WI statute 939.63 [28]

It is a felony to possess a firearm or ammunition if one:

  • Has been convicted of a felony
  • Adjudicated delinquent for an act committed on or after April 21, 1994, that if committed by an adult would be a felony
  • Has been found not guilty of a felony by reason of mental disease or defect
  • Has been committed under mental health laws and ordered not to possess a firearm
  • Is the subject of a restraining order
  • Is ordered not to possess firearms as a subject of a restraining order or as a condition of bond or parole

Any person who knowingly provides a firearm to a prohibited person is party to a felony crime.[29]

It is a class I felony to possess a firearm on school grounds.[30]

This statute does not apply to:

  • unloaded and encased firearms
  • individuals with firearms for use in a school-approved program
  • individuals with school contract to possess firearm
  • on-duty law enforcement acting in official capacity
  • off-duty officers or retired law enforcement who maintain their certification per Federal Law HR218.
  • unloaded firearms when traversing school grounds to gain access to hunting land, if the entry is approved by the school.

It is a forfeiture (fine) to possess a usable firearm on public property within 1000 feet of a school unless the carrier is a licensee. (If the gun is unloaded & encased, it is not a crime.) Wisconsin only issues resident licenses, and the ATF has interpreted federal law to mean that only licenses issued by the state in which the school is located are sufficient to void the "gun-free" school zone.

It is a class G felony to discharge or attempt to discharge a firearm in a school zone. Exceptions for self-defense, private property not part of school grounds, school programs, and on-duty law enforcement.[31]

Firearms and minors[edit]

Leaving a firearm within reach of a child under 14 is generally a misdemeanor if that child points it at anyone, harms anyone, or shows it to anyone in a public place. Defenses include having the gun locked in a safe or container, having it holstered on their person, having a trigger lock on the gun, removal of a key operating part, illegal entry by anyone to obtain the firearm, or a reasonable belief a juvenile could not access the firearm.

WI statute 948.55[32]

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."

WI statute 175.37[33]

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.

WI statute 948.60[34]

Defenses to prosecution under this statute:

  • Target practice under the supervision of an adult
  • Members of armed forces or police under 18 in the line of duty
  • Hunting (either with an adult or having passed hunter's safety)

For hunting purposes, the following exceptions to the age limit apply, as specified in statute 29.304[35] for firearms 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 the child 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 class). State law requires a minimum one-year expulsion for this offense. Statute 120.13(1)(bm)[36] and 120.13(1)(c)2m. In addition, the student's driver's license may be suspended for two years under Statute 938.34(14q).[37] This suspension also applies to students who make bomb threats or having CCW violations in taxpayer-owned buildings.

School zones[edit]

“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 1000' from the grounds of a school.

WI statute 948.605(1)(c)[38]

Any individual who knowingly possesses a firearm at a place that the individual knows, or has reasonable cause to believe, is in or on the grounds of a school is guilty of a Class I felony unless one of the exemptions applies.

WI statute 948.605(2)(a)[39]

Possession in the 1000' zone is a forfeiture (ticket), unless an exception applies. The most common of those are: private property, licensee, unloaded & encased.

WI statute 948.605(2)(b)[40] references 18USC922(q)(2)(b) (i), (iv), (v), (vi), & (vii).[41]


  1. ^ "Governor Walker Signs Bill Legalizing Concealed Knives", WQOW, February 6, 2016. Retrieved April 18, 2016.
  2. ^ "Wisconsin Constitution" (PDF). Retrieved December 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ 66.0409
  4. ^ "Supreme Court: Weapons allowed on Madison buses". AP News. Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  5. ^ "Wisconsin Carry, Inc. v. City of Madison". Justia Law. Retrieved 2017-03-08. 
  6. ^ "Wisconsin : Shall Issue" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  7. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 175.60". 2011-09-01. Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  8. ^ a b "Wisconsin Legislature: 941.23". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  9. ^ Archived from the original on June 24, 2009. Retrieved July 9, 2011.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 947.01". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  11. ^ "Wisconsins Open Carry data". Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Wisconsins Concealed Carry FAQ Page 44 Transporting Weapons Section A *Important Notes" (PDF). Retrieved November 2, 2011. 
  13. ^ a b c "Wisconsin Legislature: 939.48". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  14. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 895.62". 2009-08-01. Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  15. ^ "Report of the Washington County District Attorney's Office Regarding the Shooting of Mr. Bo Morrison on March 3, 2012" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  16. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 175.60(2g)(c)". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  17. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 167.31". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  18. ^ " - Discussion Forum". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  19. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 175.35". 1939-08-19. Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  20. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 2013 Wisconsin Act 232". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  21. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 175.30". 1939-08-19. Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  22. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 29.091". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  23. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 29.089". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  24. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 941.20". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  25. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 941.237". 1959-04-16. Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  26. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 941.296". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  27. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 941.2965". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  28. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 939.63". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  29. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 941.29". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  30. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 948.605". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  31. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 948.605(3)". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  32. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 948.55". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  33. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 175.37". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  34. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 948.60". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  35. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 29.304". 2004-06-30. Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  36. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 120.13(1)(bm)". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  37. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 938.34(14q)". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  38. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 948.605(1)(c)". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  39. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 948.605(2)(a)". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  40. ^ "Wisconsin Legislature: 948.605(2)(b)". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 
  41. ^ "18 U.S. Code § 922 - Unlawful acts | LII / Legal Information Institute". Retrieved 2015-03-14. 

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