What are the Gun Laws in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin State Laws on Purchase, Possession and Carrying of Firearms

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Montaldo, Charles. "What are the Gun Laws in Wisconsin?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/what-are-the-gun-laws-in-wisconsin-972072. Montaldo, Charles. (2016, April 29). What are the Gun Laws in Wisconsin? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-gun-laws-in-wisconsin-972072 Montaldo, Charles. "What are the Gun Laws in Wisconsin?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-gun-laws-in-wisconsin-972072 (accessed September 19, 2017).
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State Requirements

Rifles and Shotguns

  • Permit to purchase rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Registration of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Licensing of owners of rifles and shotguns? No.
  • Permit to carry rifles and shotguns? No.

Handguns

  • Permit to purchase handgun? No.*
  • Registration of handguns? No.
  • Licensing of owners of handguns? No.
  • Permit to carry handguns? No.


Caution: This summary is meant for general purposes only. Firearm laws frequently change and the following answers may not reflect changes in the laws.

Possession

It is unlawful for the following people to carry a firearm under these circumstances:

  • If they have been convicted of a felony or found not guilty of a felony by reason of mental illness.
  • If they have been committed to a mental institution and ordered not to possess a firearm.
  • If they are subject of a domestic violence, child abuse or tribal restraining order, or have been convicted of a domestic violence misdemeanor.
  • If adjudicated delinquent on or after April 21, 1994, for an act that if committed by an adult would be a felony.

Buying a Handgun

There are certain requirements that must be met before a firearm dealer can sell a handgun to an individual. 

Present Identification

The purchaser (transferee) must present reliable photo identification such as a driver's license or state identification card. The dealer is required to closely inspect any identification provided by the purchaser to ensure that it reliably identifies that person.

Notification Form

The purchaser is required to complete a notification form and pay the designated fee. The notification form requires the following information be completed:

  • Legal name and any alias or other name used at any time.
  • Birth date
  • Gender 
  • Race 
  • Social security number
  • Current address
  • Other information reasonably required to ensure a reliable record search.

    If the purchaser cannot read or write, the notification form can be completed on their behalf and in their presence by someone other than the dealer or their employees. The dealer is then required to question the purchaser to ensure the truthfulness of the information and obtain purchaser's signature (or mark) on the form.

    Initial Background Check

    Note: As of June 26, 2015, a new law eliminated the 48-hour waiting period for handgun purchases. As soon as a dealer receives an approval number for a purchaser from the Firearms Unit of the Department of Justice, the transfer of the handgun can be completed.

    After receiving the notification form, the dealer will then do a background check on the purchaser by calling a hotline number that goes to the Department of Justice. The background check will search for information about the purchaser including any criminal history, involuntary commitment, domestic violence and tribal restraining orders. 

    During the call, when possible, the Department will conduct an initial background check of the purchaser. If the purchaser passes the check the department will provide the dealer a confirmation number and an approval number. If the initial search is not possible or if it shows that the purchaser is prohibited from owning a gun, the department will not approve the transfer and provide the dealer with a confirmation number confirming the call and a non-approval number.

    If confirmation cannot be made during the initial phone call, the department is required to either approve or deny the transfer request within 48 hours from the time the dealer calls the department requesting the background check or request an extension.

    Three-Day Extension - Disposition of the Arrest

    Disposition of the Arrest: This is the conclusion or final outcome of a criminal arrest and shows if the person arrested was convicted, acquitted, or the arrest charges were modified or  dropped.

    If the background check shows that the purchaser was arrested for a felony (in-state or out of state), but there is no recorded disposition of the arrest, the Department will request a three work day extension to complete the search.

    Within or by the end of the three work days (meaning each day except Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday) extension, the Department will notify the dealer about the outcome of the search and either approve or prohibit the sale and provide the dealer with an approval or non-approval number.

    If the extended search shows a felony arrest of the purchaser, but  shows  no  recorded  disposition  of  that  arrest  or  if  the department cannot reasonably determine whether an out-of-state conviction would be a felony in Wisconsin, the Department will not approve the purchase and provide the dealer with a non-approval number.

    If  the  extended  search  shows  that  a  felony arrest is  still awaiting disposition, the department will approve the purchase and provide the dealer an approval number. 

    Review After Initial Nonapproval

    A purchaser who has received a non-approval by the Department has 10 days to request a review of the decision. 

    For more about background checks or to receive a copy of the appropriate forms to complete, visit:


    The information above does not apply to antique handguns, transfers between wholesale or retail dealers, or to law enforcement or armed service agencies.

    Pawnbrokers and Secondhand Dealers

    Pawnbrokers and secondhand dealers must first secure adequate identification from the customer and complete a form detailing a description of the firearm and identifying information on the person and from the person that they got it from. This information should be made available for inspection by a law enforcement officer. 

    Concealed Weapon License

    Wisconsin Act 35, effective November 1, 2011,

    The Department of Justice "shall issue" a license to carry a concealed weapon to any individual who is a Wisconsin resident and is:

    • 21 years of age or older
    • Not prohibited from possessing a firearm under state or federal law. 
    • Have provided proof of the firearms training required for a license.

    Concealed Weapon Application Process

    Individuals wanting a concealed weapon license can obtain the application forms on the DOJ website or request to have one mailed. To receive the license, the applicant needs to complete the application including three original signatures stating that the information is true; the application fee of $40; and proof of training.

    The DOJ will perform a background check and issue or deny the license application within 21 days from the time it is received. If the license it approved, it is good for five years from the date it is issued, unless it is suspended or revoked.

    If the license is lost or destroyed, a request for a replacement license can be requested. The completed form and a $12 replacement fee will be required.

    Privacy and the DOJ Database

    A computerized database that keeps the names and license information of individuals who have a concealed weapons license is maintained by the DOJ. The information can be accessed by law enforcement but under very limited circumstances. The DOJ does not make the information available to the public, "except in the context of a prosecution for an offense in which the person's status as a licensee or holder of a certification card is relevant."

    Where Concealed-Carry Laws are Restricted

    It is unlawful for anyone, except for law enforcement, to carry a concealed weapon in the following locations: 

    1) A police station, sheriff's office, state patrol station, or the DOJ's Department of Criminal Investigation.

    2) Any portion of a building that is a prison, jail, house of correction, or secured correctional facility.

    3) Any secured portion of a mental health institute;

    4) Any county, state, and federal courthouses.

    5) Any municipal courtrooms if court is in session.

    6) Places beyond an airport security checkpoint.

    7) School grounds and premises unless another specific statutory exception applies. 

    Other Areas Where Weapons Cannot be Carried

    The laws governing concealed-carry laws, along with the liability laws surrounding carrying a weapon whether concealed or not, are very complex. The Wisconsin Legislative Council Information Memorandum
    offers a detailed explanation of some of the primary provisions affecting a person's ability to posses or carry a firearm in Wisconsin.

    Reciprocity With Other State

    A Wisconsin resident must have a Wisconsin concealed-carry license in order to carry in Wisconsin, even if they have a valid concealed-carry license from another state.

    Permits Honored In Wisconsin:

    Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virgin Islands, Washington, Wyoming

    Permits Honored In Wisconsin With Special Conditions:

    • Virginia "Non-Resident" license only. 
    • South Dakota "Enhanced" and "Gold Licenses" only.
    • Massachusetts Class "A" permit only
    • West Virginia license issued or renewed after January 14, 2013.
    • Missouri license (except provisional licenses) issued or renewed on or after August 28, 2013.
    • Nevada license issued or renewed on or after July 1, 2011.
    • Ohio license issued or renewed on or after March 23. 2015.

    Wisconsin Concealed Permits Honored in Other States:

    Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia 

    Miscellaneous

    • It is unlawful to possess any firearm in a wildlife refuge unless the firearm is unloaded and in a case.
    • No person born on or after January 1, 1973, may obtain any approval authorizing hunting unless the person is issued a Certificate of Accomplishment. Exceptions are allowed if there is evidence that is satisfactory to the department indicating that he or she has completed in another state a hunter safety course and if the course is recognized by the department under a reciprocity agreement or if the person has successfully completed basic training in the U.S. armed forces, reserves or national guard.
    • It is unlawful to discharge any firearm within 660 feet of any public park, square or enclosure owned or controlled by any municipality .
    • It is unlawful to operate or go armed with a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant. It is unlawful to go armed with a handgun on any premises for which alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed.
    • It is unlawful to discharge a firearm while on the lands of another within 100 yards of any building devoted to human occupancy without the express permission of the owner or occupant. "Building" does not include any tent, bus, truck, vehicle or similar portable unit.
    • It is unlawful to shoot from or across a highway or within 50 feet of the center of a roadway.
    • It is unlawful to recklessly store or leave a loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of a person under the age of 14.

    Sources: Wis. Stat. Ann. Of 2003 §§ 23.33(3)(e), 29.091, 29.304, 29.591, 29.593, 29.927(5), 66.0409(2), 70.111, 120.13(1), 134.71, 167.30, 167.31, 175.35, 175.37, 815.18(3)(d), 885.235, 941.20, 941.23, 941.235, 941.237, 941.25 through 941.29, 941.297, 948.55, 948.60(3), 948.605.

    Miscellaneous

    • It is unlawful to possess any firearm in a wildlife refuge unless the firearm is unloaded and in a case.
       
    • No person born on or after January 1, 1973, may obtain any approval authorizing hunting unless the person is issued a Certificate of Accomplishment. Exceptions are allowed if there is evidence that is satisfactory to the department indicating that he or she has completed in another state a hunter safety course and if the course is recognized by the department under a reciprocity agreement or if the person has successfully completed basic training in the U.S. armed forces, reserves or national guard.
       
    • It is unlawful to discharge any firearm within 660 feet of any public park, square or enclosure owned or controlled by any municipality .
       
    • It is unlawful to operate or go armed with a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant. It is unlawful to go armed with a handgun on any premises for which alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed.
       
    • It is unlawful to possess, place, or transport in or on any aircraft, vehicle, ATV, or any motor-driven boat while the motor is running, any firearm unless such firearm is unloaded and in a case, and it is also unlawful to load or fire any firearm from such aircraft or vehicle. This prohibition does not apply to vehicles being used to transport individuals in sport shooting activities at sport shooting ranges.
       
    • It is unlawful to discharge a firearm while on the lands of another within 100 yards of any building devoted to human occupancy without the express permission of the owner or occupant. "Building" does not include any tent, bus, truck, vehicle or similar portable unit.
       
    • It is unlawful to shoot from or across a highway or within 50 feet of the center of a roadway.
       
    • It is unlawful to recklessly store or leave a loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of a person under 14 who obtains the firearm without lawful permission and possesses or exhibits the firearm in a public place or discharges the firearm so as to cause bodily harm or death to self or another.
       
    • In a commercial transfer the buyer or receiver of a firearm shall be provided with a written warning: "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."
       
    • No political subdivision may enact an ordinance or adopt a resolution that regulates the sale, purchase, purchase delay, transfer, ownership, use, keeping, possession, bearing, transportation, licensing, permitting, registration or taxation of any firearm or part of a firearm, including ammunition and reloader components, unless the ordinance or resolution is the same as or similar to, and no more stringent than, a state statute.

    Sources: Wis. Stat. Ann. Of 2003 §§ 23.33(3)(e), 29.091, 29.304, 29.591, 29.593, 29.927(5), 66.0409(2), 70.111, 120.13(1), 134.71, 167.30, 167.31, 175.35, 175.37, 815.18(3)(d), 885.235, 941.20, 941.23, 941.235, 941.237, 941.25 through 941.29, 941.297, 948.55, 948.60(3), 948.605.