Federal law establishes a baseline national standard regarding individuals’ eligibility to acquire and possess firearms. Under federal law, people are generally prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony or some domestic violence misdemeanors, or if they are subject to certain court orders related to domestic violence or a serious mental condition. However, federal law merely provides a floor, and has notable gaps that allow individuals who have demonstrated significant risk factors for violence or self-harm to legally acquire and possess guns.
Similarly, Wisconsin law prohibits the purchase or possession of a firearm by any person who has been:1
- Convicted of a felony in Wisconsin, or convicted of a crime elsewhere that would be a felony in Wisconsin;
- Adjudicated delinquent for an act committed on or after April 21, 1994, that if committed by an adult in Wisconsin would be a felony;
- Found not guilty of a felony in Wisconsin by reason of mental condition;
- Found not guilty or not responsible for a crime elsewhere that would be a felony in Wisconsin by reason of insanity or mental condition;
- Ordered not to possess a firearm because a court has determined that federal law prohibits him or her from possessing firearms because he or she has been:
- Committed to an alcohol treatment center and there is a substantial probability that the individual may cause harm to themselves or endanger public safety;5
- Enjoined under a domestic abuse or child abuse restraining order or injunction, or certain tribal injunctions;6
- Enjoined under a harassment restraining order or injunction7 with an order prohibiting the possession of a firearm;8 or
- Enjoined under a restraining order or injunction protecting an elder adult or adult-at-risk with an order prohibiting the possession of a firearm.9
For more information about Wisconsin’s laws implementing the federal prohibitions against mentally ill and drug dependent individuals possessing firearms, and allowing them to regain their eligibility to possess firearms, see the Firearm Relinquishment and Mental Health Reporting sections.
The Wisconsin prohibition against firearm possession by an individual found guilty by reason of insanity, or mental condition does not apply if a court subsequently determines that the person is no longer insane or no longer has a mental condition, and the person is not likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.10 Similarly, the prohibition against firearm possession by an individual adjudicated delinquent does not apply if a court subsequently determines that the person is not likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.11
Wisconsin has no laws preventing the purchase or possession of firearms by people convicted of violent misdemeanors.
For information on the background check process used to enforce these provisions, see the Wisconsin Background Check Procedures section.
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- Wis. Stat. § 941.29(1m).
- See Wis. Stat. § 55.12(10)(a).
- See Wis. Stat. § 54.10(3)(f)(1).
- See Wis. Stat. § 55.12(10)(a).
- See Wis. State § 51.20 (13) (cv) (1).
- See Wis. Stat. §§ 813.12 and 813.122.
- See Wis. Stat. § 813.125.
- Wis. Stat. § 941.29(1).
- Wis. Stat. § 813.123(5m).
- Wis. Stat. § 941.29(7).
- Wis. Stat. § 941.29(8).