State constitution v.s. CCW law.

In Wisconsin, it is 100% illegal for civilians to carry a concealed weapon. There is no concealed weapons permit in this state, and no way what so ever to get around the law.
Only peace officers are allowed to ccw. Even people we regularly think of as being allowed to carry a hidden piece are not exempt from the law: security personnel, private detectives, even judges, are not considered peace officers. There is no way around it. If your not a cop in this state, you simply cannot carry a concealed weapon. Period!
Even if you’re on your own property or in your own car. CCW is a class A misdemenor, punishable by 9 months in jail and/or $10,000 fine! And there is no defense or extreme circumstances that will get you out of it!
The Wisconsin State Constitution says:

** The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.**

A store owner is taking his ccw conviction to the State Supreme Court, claiming that this amendment trumps the states CCW law.
(he was arrested in his own store, when the cops noticed he had a concealed handgun).

This is purely a legal question. What any of us think about guns or ccw in general is not all that important.

Do you think this store owner’s argument is correct?

Well … the Wisconsin Constitution says he can keep arms, and he can bear arms … but it doesn’t say anything about a right to carry arms concealed on his person.

One might be able to argue that keeping and bearing arms for a “security” or “defense” purpose – if we interpret those terms to mean personal security and personal defense, and not (say) national security or state defense – would of necessity entail carrying such arms concealed. But I don’t have any idea how far that argument would get you.
What bugs me about this case, as with many other firearms cases, is that the pro-gun crowd had to wait around until someone was arrested before attacking the law on Constitutional grounds. They should have mounted suit against the state government to get the law struck down as Unconstitutional before the law was broken. (This was how the Communications Decency Act was attacked, for example.)

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that this amendment to Wisconsins constitution wasn’t added until 1998. Until then, there was no state constutional right to bear arms.
But the day after the amendment was added, the gun lobby should have used it to attack the CCW law.

Perhaps you could get away with open-carry, ala Arizona and some other states…

Wisconsin has no prohibition against open carry, and the state firearms preemption law stops local communities from having ordinances against it. Whether it would be considered disorderly conduct though, is another thing.

The word “bear” means more than just “big hairy animal”, y’know. :smiley:

Although… this just occurred to me. The Wisconsin amendment includes the phrase “any other lawful purpose”. While I believe that the current laws simply outlaw actions, can it be conceivable for them to outlaw purpose?

I am no expert on Wisconsin law.

However, as I read it, the Wisconsin constitutional language does not grant the right to carry weapons about your person, hidden from common observation.

A person wishing to exercise their rights may openly carry a gun. But a concealed weapon does not appear to me to be a right conferred by the language above.

This is consistent with Virginia law, which permits open carry but requires a permit for concealed weapons. Interestingly enough, until a few years ago, granting such a permit in Virginia was entirely discretionary with each circuit court; the practical result was that rural counties routinely issued CCW permits, while the more urban counties, especially in Northern Virginia, just as routinely denied them. I was active in the effort to pass a law removing that discretion and making the issuance of a permit, assuming the applicant was not suffering from some legal disability as regards firearms, mandatory. I, along with many others, testified in front of a General Assembly legislative hearing, and the law was ultimately changed.

  • Rick

Generally speaking, courts will not address an issue unless there is an actual “cause or controversy.” Courts will not issue rulings on an issue unless some actual person’s rights and interests are affected. So in the normal course, an arrest is necessary before a law may be challenged.
There are some exceptions, but I don’t believe (not knowing Wisconsin law or procedure) that the C.C.W. law would fall within any of them.



I suppose someone could have brought a declaratory judgement action, asserting he intended to walk about with a concealed weapon in exercise of his state constitutional rights, but was prevented from doing so by the enforcement of the law. It’s anyone’s guess if the court would have chosen to hear it, but at first blush (i.e., a three-second analysis by yours truly) it’s not a particularly fact-dependent claim, especially since the claim would be that the statute is unconstitutional on its face, not as applied to particular facts.

Note that I don’t believe it is unconstitutional – just that this is necessarily the claim that would have to be made.

  • Rick