Wisconsin’s hate and gun laws have significant gaps that allow people to keep and access firearms, including assault weapons, after they have been convicted of violent hate crimes.
Access to Guns for People Convicted of Hate Crimes in Wisconsin
|Violence with Severe Bodily Injury||Violence with Bodily Injury||Other Crimes Involving Intentional Use of Force||Threats with Deadly Weapons|
Other Credible Threats to Physical Safety
|Federal Law||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Significant access||Some access|
|State Law||Very limited or no access||Very limited or no access||Significant access||Some access|
Wisconsin’s hate crime law reclassifies the severity of many crimes if it is proven that the offender selected their victim at least in part on the basis of the victim’s perceived race, religion, color, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, or ancestry.1 (Gender and gender identity are not included as protected categories). Under this law, crimes that are ordinarily classified as Class A misdemeanors (punishable by up to nine months in jail) are reclassified as firearm-prohibiting felonies when they are committed as hate crimes.2
Wisconsin law generally prohibits people from accessing firearms if they have been convicted of a felony.3 Federal law similarly prohibits people from accessing guns if they have been convicted of a felony punishable by over one year in prison, or a state law misdemeanor punishable by more than two years.4 In Wisconsin, misdemeanors are punishable by no more than one year in jail,5 so hate crime offenders are generally subject to state and federal firearm restrictions only if they are convicted of felonies (or hate crimes reclassified as felonies).
Wisconsin generally defines violent hate crimes as firearm-prohibiting felonies if they result in intentional bodily harm, or involve stalking, threateningly brandishing a firearm or dangerous weapon, or terroristic threats intended, among other things, to cause public panic or fear.6 People convicted of these offenses are subject to state and federal gun restrictions.
However, people convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanors generally remain eligible to access firearms under both state and federal law in Wisconsin, including people convicted of hate crimes involving striking, shoving, or kicking a victim, or making credible threats of violence.7
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- Wis. Stat. § 939.645(1).
- Wis. Stat. § 939.645(2).
- Wis. Stat. § 941.29(1m). Wisconsin defines a felony as a crime “punishable by imprisonment in the Wisconsin state prisons.” Wis. Stat. § 939.60.
- 18 U.S.C. § 922 (g)(1); 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(20)(B).
- Wis. Stat. § 939.645(2).
- Wis. Stat. § 939.645(2); Wis. Stat. §§ 940.19(1) (Battery involving bodily harm reclassified as felony when committed as a hate crime); 941.20 (Endangering safety by use of dangerous weapon reclassified as felony when committed as a hate crime); 940.32(2)(a) (felony Stalking); 977.019 (felony “terrorist threats”).
- Wis. Stat. §§ 947.013(1m) (misdemeanor “Harassment” only reclassified as felony hate crime if perpetrator is subject to specified restraining orders while committing the act); 947.012 and 947.0125 (telephonic and electronic communications threatening violence).