Wisconsin’s law allowing the carrying of concealed weapons has its 10-year anniversary Nov. 1, and it has become part of Wisconsin’s culture. Although the number of shootings are increasing in urban areas, no study has linked those shootings to the concealed-carry law.

A significant number of Wisconsin residents now have concealed-carry licenses:

  • Almost one in eight of those age 21 or older had concealed-carry permits as of Sept. 27, according to the Wisconsin Department of Justice, which issues the permits. On that date, there were 458,630 such licenses.
  • The number of new applications for concealed-carry licenses doubled last year, going from 32,714 in 2019 to 77,472 in 2020. How much of that increase can be traced to fears or anxiety resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic no one knows.
  • The total number of concealed-carry licenses issued last year was 101,549, the second highest number since the law was passed. That total included 31,322 residents who renewed their licenses.

Neither Gov. Tony Evers—whose call for a special session of the Legislature to act on gun- control measures was ignored—nor Attorney General Josh Kaul responded to requests for comment about the impact of the concealed-carry law 10 years on.

In October 2019, Evers asked legislators to expand universal background checks for gun purchases and to pass a “red flag” law, which would allow family members and domestic partners to ask a judge to have guns taken away from an individual deemed a danger to themselves or others.

The concealed-carry law gives a five-year license to someone who pays a $40 fee, has completed firearms training, is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal or state law, and is not prohibited by a court order from possessing a firearm.

The first concealed-carry permit was issued Nov. 1, 2011, to then-Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. The law prohibits the disclosure of the names of those who have concealed-carry permits.

Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, said the “vast majority” of individuals who confront officers are increasingly doing so with a weapon “and that wasn’t always the case.”

It’s an “alarming trend,” Palmer said.

But, he added, “I do not hear officers complaining that the CCW law is the problem. Wisconsin’s officers are very well trained, (which) causes them to be prepared for anything on any given call. To the extent that anyone in law enforcement harbors critical views regarding Wisconsin’s CCW law, those views have not been communicated to us.”

WPPA has tracked and publicly reported data on officer- involved shootings for 10 years.

“When we first began doing so, there seemed to be a 55/45 split between those armed with firearms as opposed to knives,” Palmer said. “In each of the last several years, however, the proportion of individuals confronting officers with firearms has increased significantly.”

Among the statistics:

  • Individuals armed with firearms confronted officers in 15 of the 19 officer-involved shootings that occurred in 2020. That’s nearly 79%.
  • This year, officers in Wisconsin were confronted by individuals armed with firearms in 12 of the 14 officer-involved shootings that have transpired thus far. That’s almost 86%.

“That’s the general trend that officers are seeing, and it should concern all of us,” Palmer said. “While that should not be interpreted to suggest that the CCW law is responsible for this, I think one can reasonably draw a correlation that more guns in our communities create a dangerous ripple effect that impacts our officers.”

Palmer also said there is no data on whether individuals who confront officers with guns have valid concealed-carry permits.

One 68-year-old Madison homeowner explained why he got a license in January 2020—before the COVID-19 pandemic changed lifestyles and jobs.

“Changing crime rates and federal/state/local government policies have allowed ‘peaceful protests’ to be destructive and violent. And policies have shackled law enforcement. I felt that I could not rely on our law enforcement officers to protect myself, my (wife) and my home,” he said.

“As a senior citizen,” he added, “I realize that I am not going to outrun an assailant, not best one in a physical fight and, lastly, not be able to recover well from being mugged. It is my last line of defense for myself, my loved ones and my home.”

Steven Walters started covering the Capitol in 1988. Contact him at stevenscotwalters@gmail.com

Steven Walters started covering the Capitol in 1988. Contact him at stevenscotwalters@gmail