When a UW-L student was taken into custody by campus police for carrying a firearm in April, the incident raised questions about rules concerning guns on school property. While the hunting shotgun in this incident was cased and unloaded, the act still violated the law. School policy prohibits any weapon−concealed or exposed, permitted or not− from being carried here.
State law governing the carry of concealed weapons in public prohibits any weapon from being brought onto federal property, such as a post office or prison. Also included are jailhouses, courthouses, and mental health facilities. CCW laws additionally cover schools. However, “schools” refers only to institutions serving grades 1-12.
So, if Wisconsin laws don’t specifically apply to universities, where do the restraints come from?
“The UW Administration in Madison sets those rules for the entire system,” says Chief of University Police Scott Rohde. According to the chief, no weapons are allowed at La Crosse or any other state campus. However, if a student commutes to a UW school and is armed while in the possession of a valid CCW, that student is allowed as far as a parking lot with the weapon, providing it is left in a locked car, not carried. Aside from around campus and in classrooms, that constraint extends to the athletic field, administration offices, bookstore, and dining halls. Rohde adds, “Those facilities operate in direct support of the education process, so they fall under the law as well.”
Weapons are not authorized to be in UW housing, either. Should a student bring a hunting gun or other such item when they move onto campus, that weapon is secured, stored, and accounted for by university police. It does, though, remain available for the student to check out for use off school grounds. These rules and UW Police authority reach off-campus to adjacent student housing immediately connected to the school by surrounding side streets.
A concealable weapon, as defined by the law, is a handgun, stun-gun, billy club, or knife other than a switchblade which can be hidden on the person. Most states have laws in place for the carry of concealed weapons by licensed individuals.
Although restrictions vary from state-to-state, Wisconsin residents have relatively liberal rules if in possession of a license. If a citizen is at least 18 years of age with no criminal history or record of domestic violence and is not a felon, a license may be granted. To qualify, a hunting or firearms safety class must be taken, an application submitted to the State Department of Justice, and a background check completed along with a fee. Prior military service streamlines the process for eligible veterans and lowers the roughly $100 overall cost considerably.
Although a license may be granted for concealed carry, there are no provisions in place allowing for the general carrying of rifles or shotguns in public.