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Wisconsin's New Concealed Carry Law

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)

Q: When does the law take effect?

A: November 1, 2011.

Q: What is the law?

A: The new law allows certain individuals (see below) to carry certain concealed weapons (see below). This was previously illegal in Wisconsin, and Wisconsin was one of only two states to consider it so.

Q: Who is authorized to carry a concealed weapon?

A: Individuals over the age of 21 who are properly trained and have a valid license. Temporary emergency rules, instituted by Governor Walker in late October, require at least four hours of firearms training. There is now a debate about whether this is too little or too much training, and whether the permanent rules should even specify a level of training. Another area of debate is whether hunter safety courses will count toward this requirement.

Q: What weapons are covered by concealed carry?

A: Handguns, electric weapons (i.e., tasers), billy clubs, and knives (except switchblades).

Q: Why might I institute a policy prohibiting such weapons in my workplace, and why not?

A: The argument against instituting a policy prohibiting weapons is two-fold:

  1. the law allows concealed carry and grants employers immunity for following the law, meaning that an employer who says or does anything beyond what the law allows/requires unnecessarily takes on an additional “duty” or “obligation” of sorts; and
  2. the workplace is safer with properly trained and licensed individuals around, or the perception that there might be.

The argument in favor of instituting a policy prohibiting weapons is based on a few considerations:

  1. making a strong statement on the issue of weapons in the workplace;
  2. the belief that the fewer weapons on the premises the better; and
  3. a recognition that there may be other liability, beyond that anticipated/protected by the new statute, that flows to an employer from an incident involving licensed weapons on the premises (e.g., inadvertent discharge of a firearm, etc.).

Q: What can and can’t a “no weapons” policy say?

A: A “no weapons” policy cannot prohibit duly trained and licensed individuals from storing such weapons in their private vehicles. There is presently a debate regarding whether such a policy should address the “private vehicle exception” or assume that those who are trained and licensed know it exists. A policy might require that all such weapons (no matter whether they are owned by a person properly trained and licensed) are stored in a certain manner (e.g. locked encasement, unloaded, out of plain view, gun and ammunition stored separately, etc.); an additional “parking fee” for those who store weapons in their personal vehicles; or a check-in of all such weapons with Human Resources. Clearly, enforcement of such terms may pose a challenge.

Finally, remember that any policy prohibiting weapons should apply equally to employees and visitors and, accordingly, should not just be included in the employee handbook or disseminated just to employees.

Q: If I choose to ban concealed weapons in my workplace, need I post signage and, if so, what signage is required?

A: Best practices suggest posting signs so that all comers (vendors, visitors, etc.) are on notice of your policy. Signage must be 5” x 7”, posted prominently near all entrances, and state that weapons are prohibited per the owner/landlord/tenant. For property owners (e.g. those of you who also control the building’s parking lot), signs must be posted prominently near all probable access points to the property. Note that some property owners may prefer to post at the entrance to the parking lot than the doors to the building itself, both for aesthetic reasons and because of the lesser number of parking lot entrances.

This raises a few important questions, not yet resolved. What if the tenant permits concealed weapons, but the owner does not (or vice versa)? What to do in the event of multiple tenants?

Technically, the law allows the wishes of tenants to trump those of landlords and pits the wishes of one tenant against another (relative to bullets traveling through office walls or in common areas). In future leases, landlords might consider adding a clause addressing this issue for the sake of uniformity on the premises.

Q: What if an employee travels to a job site that has rules that differ from our company policy (or has no rules regarding concealed carry)?

A: Company rules control anything done in the course of the employee’s employment, including travel in company vehicles and work performed off-site. The sole exception, the “private vehicle exception,” allows storage in the employee’s private vehicle, even if that vehicle is parked on company property or used in conjunction with the employee’s employment.