Earlier this summer, Gov. Scott Walker signed concealed carry into law for Wisconsin, allowing citizens to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon in many public and private places. Yet politicians remain divided on whether concealed carry will make Wisconsin safer.
Open carry, concealed carry and constitutional carry
Until Nov. 1, the only form of carry legal in Wisconsin is open carry. In 2009, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen ruled Wisconsin residents can openly carry a handgun on their person without being charged with disorderly conduct, but there has been an instance where law enforcement confused the line between open carry and criminal behavior.
Permits, background checks and training are all stipulations in the new concealed carry law, aspects that separate concealed carry from yet another form known as constitutional carry. Constitutional carry means the only gun laws necessary are the ones afforded in the Second Amendment, said Auric Gold, gun enthusiast and National Rifle Association-certified gun safety instructor.
This means an individual would not need a permit and could make a choice as to whether they required training, he added.
Wisconsin moved from open carry to concealed carry, and constitutional carry is the eventual hope for some gun law advocates, Gold said.
Sen. Mary Lazich, R-Waukesha, one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said concealed carry was a compromise for this Legislature, and constitutional carry was a contentious point and wouldn’t have garnered enough votes to pass.
“At the end of the day, there was a compromise. [But] many other states approved concealed carry [and permits] before constitutional carry,” Lazich said.
How Wisconsin adjusts to concealed carry could be an indicator of the feasibility of constitutional carry, she said.
While concealed carry may be a compromise for some, it is ultimately a victory for legislators who have been working on passing the law for years, Sen. Pam Galloway, R-Wausau, said in a statement released when the bill was signed into law.
“It has been passed and vetoed a number of times by Gov. Jim Doyle, and there were veto overrides that failed by votes … over the course of a few sessions,” said Jen Esser, spokesperson for Galloway.
Concealed carry and security
Galloway said in a statement that the law is not a partisan issue, but rather it is about the general security of Wisconsin residents.
Illinois is now the only state that does not have some form of concealed carry, and Illinois Carry spokesperson Valinda Rowe said there are currently two lawsuits filed against the state.
One suit involves an elderly woman who had completed gun safety training and had been approved for concealed carry permits, but could not carry in Illinois. She was attacked and beaten, Rowe said, and is now suing Illinois for taking away her Second Amendment right to protect herself.
However, Rep. Kelda Helen-Roys, D-Madison, said she is skeptical about how much more security concealed carry will actually be afforded to state residents.
“People make those claims, but proponents of the bill do not provide evidence for that, and I don’t think there has been convincing evidence that concealed carry will somehow make us safer. In some sense, it is unnecessary. Clearer, this is a priority for a Republican special interest group: the NRA,” Helen-Roys said.
Gold said real security does not truly lie in the possession of a weapon but in an individual’s awareness of their surroundings.
“If you have a good security awareness, then your need for ever using a gun is greatly reduced. Knowing how to be aware of your surroundings is more important than using a firearm,” Gold said.
Where can concealed weapons be taken?
There are safeguards to give private business owners the right to keep weapons off their premises, but it relies heavily on the building owner to make it clear concealed weapons are not allowed.
If a private business owner does not want someone bringing a concealed weapon on their premises, they must post a 5″ x 7″ sign on all major entrances, Lazich said. Some states require signs to have specific statutes, but Wisconsin signs won’t need any special insignia or logos in order to be considered legitimate.
Lazich said any private business owner who allows concealed weapons on their premises won’t be liable if there is an altercation or injury on their property due to a misuse of a concealed weapon.
Certain public spaces, including state and local government buildings, attach a condition to concealed carry: Unless it is explicitly stated concealed weapons are not allowed, a permit holder can bring them onto the premise. According to a Department of Justice statement, this applies to university buildings as well.
While the decision is ultimately up to local campus leadership, University of Wisconsin System spokesperson David Giroux said he has not heard of any leaders who are willing to allow concealed carry.
Currently, there is no uniform policy for how the UW System will handle concealed carry, but most campuses are looking to restrict concealed weapons from campus buildings, Giroux said.
To provide each prominent entrance to each campus building in the entire UW System, 12,000 to 15,000 signs would be needed, he added.
“It’s a big logistical challenge,” he said.
While public buildings may place sanctions on concealed weapons, the government cannot limit open outdoor public spaces, according to the DOJ statement. It will be legal to carry a concealed weapon in parks and other outdoor spaces.
Logistical issues: permits and training
After the bill was signed into law, the DOJ went to work smoothing out the specifics on permits, training, and limits as to where concealed weapons can be taken. Starting Nov. 1 of this year, Wisconsin residents over 21 who can legally possess a firearm can apply to get a license through the DOJ, a statement from the department said.
When Wisconsin residents can apply for permits, an application will be available through the DOJ website, according to the statement. The fee for the permit won’t exceed $50, and proof of training will be required. Those applying will be subject to a background check.
After an application is submitted, candidates for permits can expect to wait up to 45 days if they apply during the first month the applications are available, according to the statement. Applications submitted after Dec. 1 should be evaluated within 21 days.
Wisconsin became the 49th state to pass a concealed carry law, but each state has tailored different aspects of the law, including training. In Minnesota, residents can only be approved through one type of concealed carry instruction, Gold said. In Wisconsin, those who have taken hunter safety, have prior military experience or take one of a variety of different safety courses can be qualified.
The concealed carry law only covers certain weapons. While it will be legal for a permit holder to conceal a handgun, it won’t be legal to conceal a shotgun or other larger gun, Gold said.
Other changes to the law include the legality of electric weapons. According to the DOJ statement, before the law was passed, only law enforcement and military personnel could possess and carry electric weapons, such as Tasers.
“It’ll be legal to have those, and if you have a license, you can take them wherever you can take a weapon. If you don’t have a license, you can take them on your own property or business,” Gold said.