Wisconsin provides that anyone who recklessly stores or leaves a loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of a child under age 14 is criminally liable for a misdemeanor if:

  • The child obtains the firearm without the lawful permission of his or her parent or guardian or the person having charge of the child; and
  • The child either discharges the firearm causing bodily harm to anyone, or possesses the firearm in a public place or in violation of Wisconsin Statutes § 941.20 (regarding the illegal use and discharge of firearms).1

These criminal penalties do not apply when:

  • The firearm is stored or left in a securely locked box or container or in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure;
  • The firearm is securely locked with a trigger lock;
  • The firearm is left on the person’s body or in such proximity to the person’s body that he or she could retrieve it as easily and quickly as if carried on his or her body;
  • The child obtains the firearm as a result of an illegal entry by any person;
  • The child gains access to a loaded firearm and uses it in the lawful exercise of a privilege under section 939.48 (regarding self-defense and defense of others);
  • The person who stores or leaves the loaded firearm reasonably believes that a child is not likely to be present where the firearm is stored or left; or
  • The firearm is rendered inoperable by the removal of an essential component of the firing mechanism such as the bolt in a breech-loading firearm.2

One additional exception to the child access prevention penalties is available where the bodily harm or death results from an accident that occurs while the child is using the firearm for hunting, target practice, or other lawful purposes.3

Wisconsin also provides that no parent or guardian of a child under age 16 may authorize or knowingly permit the child to violate any of the statutory restrictions on hunting and the use of firearms by persons under age 16.4

Wisconsin requires retail firearms dealers to provide all gun purchasers a written warning in block letters not less than one-fourth inch in height, 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.”5

See our Child Access Prevention policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Wis. Stat. § 948.55(1), (2), (3). ⤴︎
  2. Wis. Stat. § 948.55(4). ⤴︎
  3. Wis. Stat. § 948.55(5). ⤴︎
  4. Wis. Stat. § 29.304(4). ⤴︎
  5. Wis. Stat. § 175.37(1). ⤴︎