MADISON, Wis. – Law-abiding gun owners would no longer be required to obtain a license in order to carry a concealed firearm in Wisconsin, under a bill being circulated for sponsorship.
The Right To Carry Act, co-authored by state Sen. David Craig, R-Town of Vernon, and state Rep. Mary Felzkowski(formerly Mary Czaja) R-Irma, “simplifies state law while reducing the cost to citizens who chose to protect themselves and their families,” according to a co-sponsorship memo sent out Tuesday morning.
“The current license structure limits those who follow the law and presents administrative and cost barriers to self-protection,” the memo states. “With this bill, we make carrying more affordable and provide greater freedom for those who obey the law while maintaining stiff penalties for criminals who commit crimes with firearms.”
Wisconsin became the 49th concealed carry state in 2011 when Walker signed Act 35.
More than five years later, the Badger State has issued more than 300,000 concealed carry licenses, making the “clear case to move Wisconsin forward and expand state law to reflect the constitutional right to carry a weapon in self-defense,” Craig and Felzkowski assert in the legislative memo.
Current law requires concealed carry permits, issued by the state Department of Justice, unless the firearm owner possesses an identification card showing he is a “qualified” current or former law enforcement officer.
The Right to Carry Act eliminates the state gun free school zones law but allows schools to post notice that possession of firearms in schools or on school grounds is prohibited under state trespass law. Violators could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. The prohibitions generally would not apply to a firearm kept in a vehicle.
Concealed carry license holders are not subject to the federal gun free school zones law at Wisconsin schools. The expanded bill would create a new Wisconsin concealed carry license requiring a background check on the applicant but doesn’t mandate a complete training course.
“A person who obtains one of the new ‘basic’ concealed carry licenses would also not be subject to the federal gun free zones law” at Wisconsin schools, according to a memo by the Wisconsin Legislative Council.
Police stations, jailhouses, mental health facilities and other specified buildings in the bill could post notices prohibiting firearms on their grounds. Otherwise, there would be no firearms ban at such buildings.
The legislation would not change laws on gun-free zones on college campuses, although other proposed legislation would allow law-abiding citizens to arm themselves at institutions of higher education.
The bill also would eliminate the current prohibition on Tasers and other electric weapons, with the exception of individuals prevented from possessing a firearm.
And the proposal would allow individuals to carry a firearm or bow while operating an all-terrain vehicle or to carry such weapons into a wildlife refuge.
Opponents decried the bill as “extreme.”
“Democrats and Republicans have been long opposed to allowing guns on school grounds, yet this bill changes that safety presumption. Additionally, the authors have some explaining to do as to why they reduce the penalty from a felony to a misdemeanor for illegally carrying in a school zone. This is a serious legal breach that should be treated as such,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, D-Kenosha, said in a press release.
Craig and Felzkowski note the right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and further enumerated in Wisconsin’s constitution granting the “right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.”
“It is with this constitutional provision in mind that we reaffirm the rights and liberties of law-abiding citizens to carry a concealed weapon without a license,” the lawmakers state in the memo.
North Dakota last week became the 14th state to legalize permitless gun carry, following New Hampshire in February. North Dakota’s law allows anyone at least 21 who can legally possess a firearm to carry it concealed without having to obtain a permit beforehand.
“It does require that anyone legally carrying a firearm also carry a valid ID and inform police that they are carrying if they are stopped,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.
South Dakota’s Republican governor earlier this month vetoed bills aimed at loosening restrictions on carrying concealed weapons. Montana’s governor, a Democrat, earlier this year killed a constitutional carry bill.
Previous reciprocity bills in Congress died in committee, but permitless advocates see hope for a federal “constitutional carry” law under a GOP-controlled House and Senate and a president who is seen as a gun-rights ally.
M.D. Kittle is bureau chief for Wisconsin Watchdog and First Amendment reporter for Watchdog.org. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.