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Know the Laws: Wisconsin

UPDATED June 22, 2017

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Below is information about state gun laws in Wisconsin.  However, in addition to these state-specific laws, there are also federal gun laws that could apply. To fully understand all of the legal protections available, it is important that you also read the Federal Gun Laws pages.

WomensLaw.org strongly recommends that you get in touch with a domestic violence advocate or lawyer in your community for more information on gun laws in your area. To find an agency, please go to the WI Where to Find Help page to find help.

Guns and Domestic Abuse Restraining Orders

back to topI have a restraining order against the abuser. Can s/he keep a gun or buy a new gun?

It depends.  It is illegal under Wisconsin law (a Class G felony) for a person to possess a firearm if any of the following applies: 

  • s/he has an injunction issued against him/her for domestic violence or child abuse , including a tribal domestic violence injunction (except the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin); however, for these injunctions, there is an exception for law enforcement or military officers; or 
  • s/he is subject to an order not to possess a firearm in a harassment restraining order/injunction or an individual at risk restraining order/injunction.* 

In addition, if you have a domestic abuse restraining order against the abuser, then federal law states that it is illegal for the abuser to buy, own or have a gun in his/her possession.**  To read more information, go to our Federal Gun Laws pages. 

* Wis. Stat. § 941.29(1m)(f),(g)
** 18 USC 922(g)(1),(9)

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back to topThe abuser did not show up for the domestic abuse injunction hearing. Can his/her gun still be taken away?

Maybe.  If the abuser does not come to the hearing (but received noticed), and the judge grants the injunction, the abuser must surrender his/her firearms.*

If no hearing is scheduled, and/or no notice is given about the domestic abuse injunction, or the injunction is not granted, then the abuser may not be required to surrender his/her firearms.**

* United States v. Bunnell 106 F. Supp. 2d 60 (D. Me. 2000), aff'd 280 F. 3d 46 (1st Cir. 2002.); Wis. Stat § 813.12(4m)(a)
** United States v. Spruill 292 F. 3d 207 (5th Cir. 2002.)

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back to topI have a temporary restraining order against the abuser. Do I have to wait until I receive a final order before the abuser's gun is taken away?

Maybe.  You can ask the judge to write in your temporary order that the abuser cannot have a gun while you are waiting for a full court hearing.  If the judge sees the abuser's firearm as a serious enough threat, the judge might decide to write this in.  However, if there is no specific mention of a firearm restriction in the temporary order, then you may have to wait until you are given a final order. For information on how federal law deals with firearms in a temporary order, see I have a temporary order of protection against the abuser. Can his/her gun be taken away? 

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back to topIs there anything I can do to make it more likely that the abuser's gun is taken away when I get a restraining order?

Here are a few things that may help:

  • If the abuser has a gun, tell the judge how many guns s/he has, and if s/he has ever threatened you with a gun(s);
  • Ask the judge to specifically write in your injunction that the abuser cannot own, buy or have a gun while the order is in effect. The form that you will have to fill out to petition for a restraining order/injunction should have a place where you can request additional protections. You can ask that the abuser’s gun(s) be taken away in that section; and
  • Before leaving the courthouse, check to make sure that the gun restriction is written on your order.

It also may be helpful if the judge explains what will happen to the abuser's guns, who will take them, and where they will be held once you leave the courthouse. If the judge agrees to add language that the abuser cannot keep his/her guns while the restraining order/injunction is in effect, you may also want to ask that the judge:

  • Require the abuser to give his/her guns to the police, or require the police to go to the abuser's house and get them;
  • Make it clear to both you and the abuser how long the guns will be kept away from the abuser; and
  • Order that the police notify you when the guns are returned to the abuser.

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