Ammunition Regulation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin prohibits the possession or use of an armor-piercing bullet during the commission of a crime, if the possessor: 1) has a handgun loaded with an armor-piercing bullet or a projectile or projectile core with a muzzle velocity of 1,500 feet per second or greater; or 2) possesses an armor-piercing bullet.1 “Armor-piercing bullet” is defined as a projectile or projectile core that may be fired from any handgun and that is constructed entirely from one or a combination of tungsten alloys, steel, iron, brass, bronze, beryllium copper or depleted uranium.2

Wisconsin does not:

  • Require a license for the sale of ammunition;
  • Require a license or permit to purchase or possess ammunition;
  • Require sellers of ammunition to maintain a record of the purchasers; or

See our Ammunition Regulation policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Wis. Stat. § 941.296(2). ⤴︎
  2. Wis. Stat. § 941.296(1)(a). ⤴︎

Background Checks in Wisconsin

See our Background Checks policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires federally licensed firearms dealers (but not private sellers) to initiate a background check on the purchaser prior to sale of a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state, as well as federal, records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”) database. (Note that state files are not always included in the federal database.)

Wisconsin is a point of contact state for handgun purchaser background checks only.1 In Wisconsin, firearms dealers must initiate the background check required by federal law by contacting the Wisconsin Department of Justice (“DOJ”). For long gun (rifle and shotgun) transfers, dealers must contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation.2

Before sale of a handgun, a handgun dealer must request a records search from DOJ and receive a confirmation number confirming the request. In 2015, Wisconsin repealed a long-standing requirement that the dealer must then wait 48 hours before transferring the handgun. The new law provides that the dealer may transfer the handgun upon receiving an approval number from DOJ.3 If the DOJ search indicates that is unclear whether the potential purchaser is prohibited from purchasing a firearm, DOJ must notify the dealer of the results no later than 5 working days after the search was requested.4

Regarding a prospective handgun transferee, the dealer must do the following, in the sequence listed, to obtain the proper information prior to requesting an approval number from DOJ:

  • Require each handgun transferee to show to the dealer a reliable identification document, such as a motor vehicle operator’s license or state-issued identification card that includes the licensee or card holder’s photograph;
  • Inspect the transferee’s identification document, including the photograph, and ensure that it accurately and reliably identifies the transferee;
  • Require the transferee to complete, in triplicate, an official DOJ-issued notification form. The dealer shall provide one copy to the transferee when either the handgun is transferred or when notification of non-approval is given to the transferee. Within 24 hours after the dealer receives DOJ notification that the transfer is either approved or not approved, the dealer shall mail one copy of the completed form to DOJ. The dealer shall retain the completed original form; and
  • Following the transferee’s completion of the notification form, the dealer shall telephone DOJ and request a record search, conveying all material information on the notification form to DOJ.5

Wisconsin law specifies that particular searches that DOJ must conduct to determine whether a person is prohibited from possessing a firearm under various provisions of Wisconsin and federal law.6

Wisconsin does not require private sellers (sellers who are not licensed dealers) to initiate a background check when transferring a firearm.

See our Private Sales policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Notes
  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Instant Criminal Background Check System Participation Map, at https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics/about-nics ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. Wis. Stat. § 175.35 ⤴︎
  4. Id. ⤴︎
  5. Wis. Admin. Code Jus § 10.06(1). ⤴︎
  6. See Wis. Stat. § 175.35(1)(at) (listing the specific searches that DOJ conducts). ⤴︎

Child Access Prevention in Wisconsin

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). ⤴︎

Concealed Weapons Permitting in Wisconsin

See our Carrying Concealed Weapons policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

In 2011, Wisconsin passed a law allowing licensed individuals to carry a concealed firearm in public.1 The law also allows an individual to carry a concealed firearm in his or her own dwelling or place of business or on land that he or she owns, leases, or legally occupies, even without a license.2

Under the new law, Wisconsin is a “shall issue” state, meaning that the Wisconsin Department of Justice (“DOJ”) must issue a license to carry a concealed weapon if the applicant meets certain qualifications.3 More specifically, DOJ must issue a license to any individual who submits an application unless he or she:

  • Is less than 21 years of age;
  • Is prohibited under federal or Wisconsin law from possessing a firearm;
  • Is not a Wisconsin resident; or
  • Has not provided proof of training (as described below).4

The Wisconsin law also allows an individual to petition the court in the county in which he or she resides for an emergency license to carry a concealed weapon.5

Firearm Safety Training

The proof of training requirement may be met by any of the following:

  • A hunter education program established under Wisconsin law or a substantially similar program in another state, country, or province;
  • A firearms safety or training course:

Offered by a law enforcement agency;

Conducted by a national or state organization that certifies firearms instructors;

Taught by an instructor who is certified by a national or state organization that certifies firearms instructors; or

Taught by an instructor who is certified by DOJ;

  • A firearms safety or training course that is offered to law enforcement officers or to owners and employees of licensed private detective and security agencies; or
  • Documentation that the individual completed military, law enforcement, or security training that gave the individual substantially equivalent experience with firearms.6

Duration & Renewal

A Wisconsin license to carry a concealed weapon is valid for 5 years.7 DOJ conducts a background check upon renewal, but renewal applicants are not required to complete further firearms safety training or testing.8

Disclosure or Use of Information

Wisconsin law requires DOJ to maintain a computerized record listing the names and other information about licensees.9 A law enforcement officer may not request or be provided information concerning a specific licensee except for specified purposes.10 A person who is a law enforcement officer in a state other than Wisconsin may request and be provided information about a licensee only to confirm that the person is actually licensed.11 DOJ and other law enforcement agencies may not make information about licensees available to the public except in the context of a prosecution for an offense in which the person’s status as a licensee is relevant.12

Neither a law enforcement agency nor any of its employees may store or maintain information regarding an individual that was obtained from DOJ based on the individual’s status as a licensee.13 Neither a law enforcement agency nor any of its employees may sort or access information regarding vehicle stops, investigations, civil or criminal offenses, or other activities involving the agency based on the individuals’ status as licensees.14

DOJ must also produce an annual report detailing the number of licenses applied for, issued, denied, suspended, and revoked.15 The report must give the reasons for denials, suspensions and revocations, but may not include information that may be used to identify an applicant or a licensee.16

Reciprocity

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is required to establish, by rule, a list of states that issue a CCW license or permit that either requires or designates that the holder of the license or permit chose to submit to a background check that is comparable to the check conducted under Wisconsin law.17 A person who possesses a CCW license or permit from one of the states designated in the DOJ rule may carry concealed in Wisconsin provided that he or she is over 21 and not a Wisconsin resident.18

In addition, DOJ is authorized to enter into reciprocity agreements with other states as to matters relating to licenses or other authorization to carry concealed weapons.19

Notes
  1. Wis. Stat. § 941.23(2)(d). ⤴︎
  2. Wis. Stat. § 941.23(2)(e). ⤴︎
  3. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(2)(a), (3), (9)(b)(2). ⤴︎
  4. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(3). Additional application and background check requirements, as well as permit suspension and disqualification information, are detailed under Wis. Stat. § 175.60. ⤴︎
  5. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(9r). ⤴︎
  6. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(4)(a). ⤴︎
  7. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(15)(a). ⤴︎
  8. Id. ⤴︎
  9. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(12)(a). ⤴︎
  10. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(12)(a)(1), (12g). ⤴︎
  11. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(12)(a)(2), (12g). ⤴︎
  12. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(12)(c), (12g)(1). ⤴︎
  13. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(12g)(2). ⤴︎
  14. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(12g)(3). ⤴︎
  15. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(19). ⤴︎
  16. Id. ⤴︎
  17. Wis. Stat.  165.25(12). ⤴︎
  18. Wis. Stat.  175.60(1)(f), (g) and (2g)(a). ⤴︎
  19. Wis. Stat. § 175.60(18). ⤴︎

Dealer Regulations in Wisconsin

See our Dealer Regulations policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a license from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), although resource limitations prevent the ATF from properly overseeing all its licensees.

Wisconsin has no law requiring firearms dealers to obtain a state license or permit. However, before a firearms dealer may offer a handgun for sale, the dealer must register each handgun store he or she owns or operates with the Wisconsin Department of Justice (“DOJ”).1 DOJ will provide the dealer with a unique dealer identification number for each store.2

Wisconsin has established procedures for handgun dealers to follow when complying with state background check requirements for the transfer of any handgun.3 The state also requires handgun dealers to retain certain forms regarding handgun sales.

See the Wisconsin Background Checks and Retention of Sales / Background Check Records sections for further information.

Firearms dealers must provide to all firearm 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.”4

Notes
  1. Wis. Admin. Code Jus § 10.04(1). ⤴︎
  2. Id. ⤴︎
  3. Wis. Stat. § 175.35(2g); Wis. Admin. Code Jus § 10.01 et seq. “Handgun dealer” means a firearms dealer (person engaged in the business of importing, manufacturing or dealing in firearms and having a license as an importer, manufacturer or dealer issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, per Wis. Stat. § 175.35(1)(ar) who offers one or more handguns for sale. Wis. Admin. Code Jus § 10.03(7). ⤴︎
  4. Wis. Stat. § 175.37(1). ⤴︎

Disarming Prohibited Persons in Wisconsin

Wisconsin state courts that order a person committed for mental health-related treatment must order the person not to possess firearms and order the seizure of any firearm owned by the individual, if the court determines that the person is prohibited by federal law from possessing a firearm.1 In lieu of gun seizure, the court may designate a person to store the firearm until the order has ended.2

In addition, if a state court: 1) appoints a guardian for an individual; 2) orders protective services for or protective placement of an individual; or 3) orders treatment and services, including involuntary commitment, for an individual incapacitated by alcohol or suffering from alcoholism, the court must determine if that person is prohibited from possessing a firearm because he or she has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution under federal law.3 If the person is deemed prohibited, the court must order the person not to possess firearms, and order the seizure of any firearm owned by the individual.4 As an alternative to seizing the firearms, the court may designate a person to store the firearms until the order expires or is canceled by the court.5

Wisconsin law allows individuals in any of these categories to petition a court for an order restoring the person’s eligibility to possess firearms and providing for the return of the seized firearms.

For information about removing firearms from domestic violence protective order defendants, see Domestic Violence and Firearms in Wisconsin.

Notes
  1. Wis. Stat. § 51.20(13)(cv)(1). ⤴︎
  2. Wis. Stat. § 51.20(cv)(3). ⤴︎
  3. Wis. Stat. §§ 51.45(13)(i)(1), 54.10(3)(f)(1), 55.12(10)(a). ⤴︎
  4. Wis. Stat. §§ 54.10(3)(f)(1), 55.12(10)(a). ⤴︎
  5. Wis. Stat. §§ 54.10(3)(f)(3), 55.12(10)(c). ⤴︎

Domestic Violence & Firearms in Wisconsin

See our Domestic Violence & Firearms policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.

Wisconsin has no law prohibiting individuals convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition. Federal law, however, prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms and ammunition by certain domestic abusers.

Wisconsin also has no law requiring the removal of firearms at the scene of a domestic violence incident.

Firearm Prohibitions for Persons Subject to Domestic Violence Restraining/Protective Orders

Wisconsin prohibits the possession of a firearm by any person enjoined under a domestic abuse or child abuse restraining order or injunction, certain tribal injunctions1 or a harassment or elder abuse/adult-at-risk restraining order or injunction with an order prohibiting the possession of a firearm.2

Removal or Surrender of Firearms When Domestic Violence Restraining/Protective Orders Are Issued

In 2014, Wisconsin enacted a new law providing a process for the surrender of firearms by the subjects of the restraining orders and injunctions listed above.3 The law requires a court to stay an injunction and extend a temporary restraining order for up to 48 hours during which time the respondent must complete a firearm possession form. If the respondent is not present in court, the petitioner must testify as to the respondent’s possession of firearms.4 If the court is satisfied that the respondent possesses firearms, it must issue a surrender and extend order and schedule a hearing to surrender firearms within one week.

If a surrender and extend order has been issued, the respondent has 48 hours to surrender his or her firearms to a person who is not prohibited from possessing a firearm and is approved by the court, or to a sheriff.5 At the firearm surrender hearing, the respondent must verify that he or she has already surrendered his or her firearms or surrender the firearms during the hearing.6 If the respondent fails to attend the hearing to surrender firearms, the court must issue an arrest warrant for him or her.7

 

 

Notes
  1. See Wis. Stat. §§ 813.12(1)(am), (4)(a), (4m), 813.122(5m). ⤴︎
  2. Wis. Stat. §§ 813.125(4m), 941.29(1)(f), (g), (2)(d), (e), 813.123(5)(a). ⤴︎
  3. Wis. Stat. § 813.1285. ⤴︎
  4. Wis. Stat. § 813.1285 (2). ⤴︎
  5. Wis. Stat. § 813.1285(3). ⤴︎
  6. Wis. Stat. § 813.1285(4). ⤴︎
  7. Wis. Stat. § 813.1285(4). ⤴︎