The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides Americans with the right to bear arms. While many have interpreted this law in different ways, it has been generally agreed that people in the United States are allowed to own and carry firearms. However, the specific laws regarding gun possession vary from state to state. Wisconsin’s gun laws are less restrictive than some states, and most people are allowed to possess firearms, while concealed weapons can be carried by those who have a concealed carry weapons (CCW) license. Violations of these laws may result in criminal charges for illegal weapons possession. Wisconsin residents and visitors to the state will want to be sure to understand the specific laws that apply to gun possession and the penalties for violations.
Criminal Charges Related to Firearm Possession
While ownership and possession of firearms is generally allowed in Wisconsin, there are some situations where a person may face criminal charges for possessing a gun. Firearm possession is prohibited for people who have been convicted of felonies, people who have been found not guilty of felonies due to mental disease or defect, people subject to involuntary commitment orders, and people who are subject to restraining orders in situations involving accusations of domestic violence. Possession of a firearm by a person who is not permitted to do so is a Class G felony.
Wisconsin restricts the carrying of firearms in certain locations. A person cannot carry a gun in a public building that is owned or leased by the state’s government, and handguns cannot be brought into any locations where alcohol is sold or consumed. A violation of these restrictions is a Class A misdemeanor. Carrying a concealed firearm without a CCW license is also a Class A misdemeanor. Other location-based violations include carrying a concealed or unconcealed firearm in a police station, sheriff’s office, jail, mental health facility, courthouse, or beyond the security checkpoint at an airport. These violations may be punished by a $500 fine, a 30-day jail sentence, or both.
Ownership of certain types of weapons is also restricted. These include machine guns or fully automatic firearms, short-barreled shotguns, and short-barreled rifles. Possession of these types of firearms is a Class H felony.
Wisconsin has several laws that are meant to protect children against harm from firearms. Schools are considered to be gun-free zones, and possession of a gun while on the grounds of a public or private elementary school, middle school, or high school is a Class I felony. A person who possesses a firearm within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school may be subject to a Class B forfeiture, and they may be required to pay a fine of up to $1,000. Possession of a firearm or other deadly weapon by a person under the age of 18 is a Class A misdemeanor.
A person may also face criminal charges if they leave a loaded firearm in a location where it can be accessed by a child who is under the age of 14. If a child obtains a firearm in these situations without the lawful permission of their parent, guardian, or a person who is caring for them, and they discharge the gun and injure or kill themselves or someone else, the gun’s owner may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. If the child obtains a firearm and endangers public safety by possessing or exhibiting the gun in a public place, the owner may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor.