Wisconsin bill would allow concealed weapons without license

Published: Mar. 28, 2017 at 8:21 AM CDT
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A Republican-backed proposal to allow Wisconsin residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit is drawing opposition from at least one Republican member of the state Senate.

Right now, Wisconsin gun owners who pass a background check, can open carry, but to conceal carry, a gun owner needs to pay a fee and complete a training class to obtain a license.

Republican State Representative Mary Felzkowski from Irma and Republican State Senator David Craig from the Town of Vernon, introduced the "right to carry bill". It would eliminate the licensing procedure.

According to Rep. Felzkowski, "I think the biggest thing that people have to realize is that we're talking about expanding the rights for legal background checked gun owners. I feel it's expanding the rights of law abiding citizens and I think that is something we should always do."

The bill would also allow for legal gun owners to leave their weapons in their vehicles at buildings like schools and offices when they're prohibited from carrying them inside.

"We are not taking away any rights of posting for local units of government, schools, universities, or private land owners. They still have the right to post their buildings and grounds," adds Rep. Felzkowski.

The idea is being met with mixed reaction.

Rep. Amanda Stuck, a Democrat from Appleton says, "It's a little concerning to see a proposal coming forward to take anyway any sort of requirements for any sort of training and sort of permitting."

Even republican lawmakers are split on the idea. Sen. Luther Olsen says he opposes the bill that was circulated Tuesday for co-sponsors. Olsen says it's important for people wanting to carry concealed weapons to get firearm safety training. He also opposes changes under the bill that would allow concealed weapons on school grounds that don't prohibit them.

But, Rep. Jim Steineke believes the bill is simply reaffirming a right. He says, "I don't think there's much of a difference between the current system of conceal carry permits and what we will have under this bill."

Sen. Roger Roth, a republican, is undecided. He tells Action 2 News, "I'm not necessarily opposed to that, I just want to sit down and talk with my local law enforcement, just to understand what their concerns might be before I publicly stake out a position in support or in opposition to this."

In a statement to Action 2 News, Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas said, "We all value our constitutional rights, but our founders also made it clear that they were not unrestrained rights. Legislation like this, in a time when we continue to see random and impulsive acts of mass murder like we experienced this past week in the Wausau area, only makes Wisconsin less safe. Police Officers, first responders, and our medical professionals all too often are dealing with tragedies that occur because of the accidental discharges of firearms or impulsive acts by those who are in crisis. To eliminate the required training to carry concealed, to make it easier to possess firearms on school property, to allow guns in bars as long as you are not consuming alcohol, to allow the possession of "Tasers", along with other parts of this bill should concern all of us and not just law enforcement."


Wisconsin Democratic Senate Leader Jennifer Shilling:

MADISON, WI – As gun lobbyists push to expand access to firearms across the country, Wisconsin Republicans announced their plan to allow dangerous individuals to carry firearms without a permit or background check. The “Permitless Carry” proposal by Wisconsin Republicans would lower the age to carry a concealed weapon and give dangerous individuals greater access to firearms. In response, Senate Democratic Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) released the following statement:

 “Gun violence in Wisconsin is a public health crisis. I don’t hear anyone clamoring to put more painkillers on the street to combat opioid abuse, so why do Republicans think more guns in the hands of dangerous criminals will make our communities safer? Allowing anyone to carry a loaded, concealed firearm in public without any safety training or a simple background check is completely irresponsible.

“The overwhelming majority of Wisconsin residents agree that responsible individuals who want to carry a concealed weapon should go through a background check and obtain a permit. Too many men, women and children have already died as a result of gun violence. Rather than putting more guns in the hands of dangerous individuals, we should protect families and communities by closing the gun show loophole, strengthening background checks and keeping guns off school property.”


National Rifle Association:

Fairfax, Va.— The National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) today applauds Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) and Sen. Dave Craig (R-Big Bend) for introducing Wisconsin’s Right to Carry legislation that will simplify Wisconsin law and allow law-abiding gun owners to carry their firearm in the manner that best suits their needs. 

“This important piece of legislation means law-abiding gun owners will no longer have to jump through government hoops and pay fees to exercise a basic constitutional right in the way that works best for them,” said Scott Rausch, NRA-ILA Wisconsin state liaison. “Right to Carry is commonsense legislation for Wisconsin.”

Current law in Wisconsin allows residents to openly carry a firearm without a permit as long as it can be seen, such as on their hip. However, the moment that gun owner puts on a jacket, they become a criminal. 

The introduced ‘Right to Carry’ legislation will allow Wisconsinites who are not otherwise prohibited from owning firearms to lawfully carry a firearm under their jacket or in a purse without first having to get a permit.  

The bill will also create a basic license that will allow parents to pick-up and drop-off their children from school without having to leave their firearm at home.  Further, it expands where concealed carry is legal. For example, if passed, gun owners will also be able to carry on their person while driving – an aspect that simplifies a confusing 2011 law that ensnared otherwise law-abiding people. 

Twelve states have constitutional carry laws and data analysis shows no increase in crime has occurred. This year, an additional 20 states have or are still considering similar legislation. 

The bill does not affect who can carry a firearm. Anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor domestic violence, adjudicated mentally ill, dishonorably discharged from the military, or under 21, is not legally allowed to possess a firearm, and that remains so under LRB 2039.

“This NRA-backed bill is a step forward for freedom-loving Americans. There is no reason why law-abiding citizens should have to pay fees and fill out paperwork to exercise their rights,” concluded Rausch.

The NRA-ILA would like to thank Rep. Felzkowski and Sen. Craig for their leadership in proposing this legislation, and also extend a huge thank you to the 39 state Legislators who have added their names as co-authors of the legislation.