Wisconsin Assembly passes package of gun bills

Plans would lower the age for concealed carry permits, permit guns in vehicles on school grounds

The state capitol
Wisconsin state Capitol. Phil Roeder (CC BY)

Wisconsin would lower its minimum age for concealed carry permits and permit-holders could carry guns in vehicles on school grounds under a package of bills that passed Thursday in the Wisconsin Assembly.

Assembly Republicans also passed a measure that would give a concealed carry permit-holder from another state the right to carry in Wisconsin, even if their home state doesn’t conduct background checks.

At dueling press conferences before Thursday’s Assembly session, lawmakers from both parties offered vastly different assessments of the bills, with Democrats voicing concern that they’d make communities — and kids — less safe.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Rep. Deb Andraca, D-Whitefish Bay, said she’s a concealed carry permit-holder who supports the Second Amendment right to own guns, but she said these bills, taken as a whole, were terrifying.

“Republicans are promoting an NRA-approved, politically motivated agenda at the expense of our schools, our kids and our communities,” Andraca said.

GOP lawmakers pushing the bills downplayed their significance, arguing they corrected inconsistencies in state law.

“This simply says we’re going to treat you all like the adults you are,” Rep. Shae Sortwell, R-Two Rivers, said. “We’re going to trust you to be responsible.”

Under current law, the minimum age for a concealed carry permit is 21 in Wisconsin. Sortwell’s plan would lower it to 18.

People under 21 would still be banned from purchasing handguns at federally licensed gun dealers. Critics said that would send 18- to 20-year-olds to buy guns on the private market, where they would sidestep background checks.

The other gun bills passed Thursday would apply to concealed carry permit-holders of all ages:

  • One would let them carry guns in their vehicles on school grounds, which is a felony under current law.
  • Another would let permit-holders carry a gun in a place of worship located on the grounds of a private school if the governing body of the place of worship has a written policy that allows it.
  • The reciprocity bill would mean that concealed carry permit-holders from any state would be allowed to carry in Wisconsin. Right now, Wisconsin only allows reciprocity for states that require background checks for concealed carry permits.

While Democrats argued against the plans, they all passed the Assembly on voice votes, meaning lawmakers were not recorded on the record as having voted for or against them.

At an event in Madison Thursday, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers would not say whether he would veto the plans, saying he needed to see whether they passed the Legislature first. Evers, however, called the combination of bills “bizarre” when asked by reporters.

The proposals head next to the state Senate.