Bill to Allow “Constitutional Carry” of Firearms Could Impact Schools, Boards

A bill draft (LRB-2039/1) released today (3/28) by state Sen. Dave Craig (R-Big Bend, Town of Vernon) and state Rep. Mary Felzkowski (R-Irma) would provide for the so-called “constitutional carry” of firearms in Wisconsin.  Under this proposal, dubbed the “Right to Carry” bill, gun owners who can legally own a firearm would no longer be required to obtain a license in order to carry a concealed firearm in Wisconsin.

(Note: Current law generally prohibits an individual from carrying a concealed weapon unless the individual has a state Department of Justice-issued license to carry a concealed weapon, which requires a background check and proof of training, or the individual is a qualified current or former law enforcement officer.)

The bill unveiled today (3/28) would eliminate current state law prohibitions against carrying firearms in specified places, including school zones, but would retain provisions in current law that allow certain persons or governing bodies to post their buildings and grounds so that individuals who carry a firearm in violation of the posting would commit trespass.

For schools, the bill would eliminate the existing state gun free school zones law, which prohibits individuals generally from carrying a firearm on school grounds and prohibits individuals who do not hold a license to carry a concealed weapon (a CCW license) from carrying a firearm in a school zone.  However, schools would be allowed to post their buildings and grounds to prohibit weapons possession under state trespassing laws.

To post a valid notification for school grounds under the bill, a school must post a sign that is located in a prominent place near all of the probable access points to the grounds to which the restriction applies and any person entering the grounds can be reasonably expected to see the sign.

An individual who violates the trespassing provision would be guilty of a Class C misdemeanor if the individual goes armed in a posted school building and a Class B forfeiture if the individual goes armed on the posted grounds of a school.  Under the draft bill these prohibitions generally would not apply to a firearm kept in a vehicle. (See below.)

Both state and federal law currently include similar “gun free school zones” provisions that generally, subject to certain exceptions, ban the possession of firearms in school buildings, on the grounds of a school, and within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school.

However, under current law, an individual who holds a Wisconsin concealed carry (CCW) license is not subject to the federal  Gun Free School Zones Act with respect to Wisconsin schools.   (That federal law, which is unaffected by this proposed state legislation, generally prohibits possession of firearms in school zones but exempts individuals who are licensed to possess a firearm by the state in which the school zone is located if the license involves a background check on the individual.)

It is the current state gun free school zones law, which is repealed by this bill, that has frustrated some parents who hold CCW permits and argue the law interferes with their rights to carry a firearm when picking up or dropping off their children at school because it requires that the firearm be unlocked and be either encased or locked in a firearms rack on the vehicle.

Under the bill, individuals holding a CCW license would be able to carry a firearm while picking up or dropping off their children from school even if the school posted the school grounds to ban guns from school grounds as long as the weapon does not leave the vehicle.

Finally, the proposed bill would create a new type of Wisconsin concealed carry (CCW) license that would require a background check on the applicant but would not require any training.  An individual who obtains one of these new “basic” concealed carry (CCW) licenses would also not be subject to the federal gun free schools law with respect to schools in Wisconsin

The WASB’s current resolution on Weapons Possession and schools reads as follows:

 Resolution 6.11 (b) Weapons Possession

 (b) The WASB supports safe learning environments for all children, free of guns and other weapons. Further, the WASB opposes any initiatives at the state or federal level that would legalize any further ability for anyone, with the exception of sworn law enforcement officers, to bring a weapon or possess a weapon, including a facsimile or “look-alike” weapon, concealed or otherwise, in school zones or lessen the consequences for violation of existing safe school policies relating to guns and other weapons. Decisions about whether CCW licensees may possess weapons in school buildings must remain exclusively in the hands of the locally elected school board which governs the school.

View Bill Draft (LFB 17-2039_1)
View Leg. Council Memo on Firearms Possession in School Zones (LFB 2039_1)
View Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on “Right to Carry” under LRB 2039/1 (provided by the bill’s authors)
View Press Release (from bill’s authors)
View Milwaukee Journal Sentinel coverage; WBAY-TV (Green Bay) coverageFOX6-TV (Milwaukee) coverage