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Wisconsin Gun Control Laws

When it comes to gun ownership, the main concern for both gun owners and the general public alike is safety. And we leave much of it up to states to balance those two interests when crafting gun control regulations.

Trying to get a handle on these gun laws can be a bit tricky, especially if states and the federal government have different or overlapping laws. This article provides an overview of Wisconsin's gun control laws, including who can own guns and what individuals need to do to carry a weapon legally.

Wisconsin Gun Laws at a Glance

The table below highlights the main provisions of Wisconsin's gun control laws.

Relevant Statutes (Laws)

Chapter 175, Sections 175.35 through 175.60

Chapter 941, Sections 941.20 through 941.298

Chapter 948

Illegal Arms

The following firearms are illegal to possess in Wisconsin:
  • Short-barreled shotguns
  • Short-barreled rifles
  • Machine guns or fully automatic firearms

Waiting Period

Wisconsin does not have a specific waiting period for purchasing a gun. However, Wisconsin law requires federally licensed firearm dealers to complete a background check that may take up to 5 days.

Who Can't Own Guns?

People can't ever possess a firearm in Wisconsin if:
  • They have been convicted of a felony
  • They are an adjudicated delinquent for an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult
  • They have been found not guilty of a felony by reason of mental disease, defect, or insanity
  • They are subject to a court order prohibiting possession of a firearm

License Required?

Wisconsin does not require a license to own a firearm.

Concealed Carry License Required?

A concealed carry license is required to carry a concealed firearm in public.

Open Carried Allowed?

Open carry is legal in Wisconsin.

Eligibility for a Concealed Carry License

A person is eligible for a concealed carry license in Wisconsin unless any of the following applies:
  • The individual is less than 21 years of age
  • The individual is prohibited under federal law from possessing a firearm that has been transported in interstate or foreign commerce
  • The individual is prohibited from possessing a firearm by law
  • A court has prohibited the individual from possessing a dangerous weapon
  • The individual is on release pending trial or sentencing and may not possess a dangerous weapon as a condition of the release
  • The individual is not a Wisconsin resident or a military resident
  • The individual has not provided proof of firearm training

Machine Gun Laws

With limited exceptions (such as those used for scientific purposes), a person may not sell, possess, use, or transport any machine gun or other fully automatic firearm.

Penalties for Illegal Firearm Possession

  • Unlawful carrying of a concealed firearm is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 9 months in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Possessing a short-barreled shotgun, short-barreled rifle, or machine gun is a Class H felony punishable by up to 6 years imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Possessing a firearm when prohibited by law is a Class G felony punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment and up to a $25,000 fine.

Penalties for Illegal Possession on or Near School Grounds

In Wisconsin, possessing a firearm on school grounds is a Class I felony punishable by up to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment and up to a $10,000 fine.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Wisconsin, like all states, has its own gun laws. Federal law also regulates gun ownership, generally by determining the kinds of firearms a person may legally own. It is important to note that where federal and state laws intersect, federal law always wins out.

Therefore, Wisconsin gun owners are subject to the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the National Firearms Act. Residents of the Badger State should be familiar with both statutes.

Although the Second Amendment guarantees a right to own firearms, the government can still put some restrictions on the type of guns people can own and the manner in which they are purchased.

Wisconsin Gun Control Laws: Related Resources

State firearms regulations can be confusing, especially when they overlap with federal law.

If you would like legal assistance to know your rights and responsibilities as a gun owner in Wisconsin, you can consult with a Wisconsin attorney in your area. You can also find more articles and resources on this topic in FindLaw's Gun Law section.

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