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Thread: Wisconsin Knife Laws

  1. #1
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    Wisconsin Knife Laws


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    I live in Wisconsin. The knife laws are very vague. Could someone please explain them to me.

  2. #2
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    The law is indeed very vague. The only parts of relevance are the following:

    Any person, other than one of the following, who carries a concealed and dangerous weapon is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor
    Source - 941.23(2)

    The exceptions are if you are or were a cop, if you are in your own home or place of business, or if you have a concealed weapon license.
    In the cast of the latter two exceptions, the weapon must be one of the following:

    "Weapon" means a handgun, an electric weapon, as defined in s. 941.295 (1c) (a), a knife other than a switchblade knife under s. 941.24, or a billy club.
    Source: 175.60(1)(j)

    Putting it all together in plain English:
    If you are not a cop, not on your own land, don't have a concealed weapon permit and you are carrying any kind of non-automatic knife concealed, it is a judgement call that must be made by that police officer, and if arrested, another judgement call that must be made by the judge and jury. Case law indicates it is the totality of the circumstances where the knife is found, what the apparent or expressed intent of the knife carry was, and the design of the knife being primarily intended as a weapon.

    A notable case illustrating the capricious nature of the state's knife law is State v Ronnie Malloy, 2005. Malloy was a pugnacious drunkard who got in a fist fight at a gas station. The police were called and arrested him for disorderly conduct, during which they found he had a 4" folding knife in a belt-sheath. The knife's description sounds rather unremarkable, and it was likely something similar to a Buck 110 Hunter. Malloy claimed the knife was for work cutting boxes and for fishing. In spite of this non-combat purpose, the jury chose to ignore his statement as "self-serving" and convicted him of carrying a concealed dangerous weapon based on no other reason than knife having "a very sharp, pointed blade approximately four inches in length." This conviction was upheld on appeal.

    Frankly, such a ruling on a law like that would scare the crap out of me. The statute is clearly unconstitutionally vague, but WI seems to be following the tradition of NY and some other states ruling "It is not unconstitutionally vague nor does it violate the Second Amendment cuz...uh...cuz I'm an appeals court judge and I say so! Nyan-nyaaah!"

    So if you want to comply with the law, you can either carry something that is blatantly tool-like, such as a multi-tool pliers or a SAK, you can make sure that anything you carry is openly visible at all times, or you can get one of those new concealed weapon permits (which unlike most states, covers knives, tasers and batons) they just started issuing due to that new law this year.

    Source law:
    http://legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/Stat0941.pdf

  3. #3
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    First off thanks a million for your quick and informational reply. Second, what is the definition of carrying openly and how much does a concealed carry permit cost?

  4. #4
    gilstam as always for a great source of info. I have to say that some of these laws make NY seem ok! I know that the actual enforcement of the law is most likely rare, but it is out there. We need more places like NH, Az and FL as far as knife laws go.....

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jon_robz-96 View Post
    First off thanks a million for your quick and informational reply. Second, what is the definition of carrying openly and how much does a concealed carry permit cost?
    It does not actually give a definition of concealed, though in Malloy he had a vest on that covered his belt sheath. It would seem then that concealed is another judgement call. Personally I would go with a cautious approach to concealment: It should be obvious to a non-cop, non-knife knut person looking at the object on your person that the object is a knife. You could for example ask a friend or relative if they can tell you are carrying a knife.

    As far as the concealed weapon permit, my understanding is that is a brand new thing because WI was one of the last few states with a "No -Issue" policy. In fact I don't think the law has taken effect yet, but should in November.

  6. #6
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    I'm confused. In November when a person can get a concealed carry permit for a gun, will that in any way cover a knife "concealed" in a persons pocket? Where can I find a specific reference to a knife in the new law?

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdgeCraft View Post
    I'm confused. In November when a person can get a concealed carry permit for a gun, will that in any way cover a knife "concealed" in a persons pocket? Where can I find a specific reference to a knife in the new law?
    It comes from part of the law. This is an exception to the aforementioned statute (941.23(2)) against the carry of any concealed weapons:

    A licensee, as defined in s. 175.60 (1) (d), or an out− of−state licensee, as defined in s. 175.60 (1) (g), if the dangerous weapon is a weapon, as defined under s. 175.60 (1) (j).
    Those "approved" weapons for a permit holder (per 175.60(1)(j)) include tasers and stun guns, handguns, non-auto knives of any sort, and police batons. Wisconsin's permits appear to quite unusual based on the fact they they are true concealed weapon permits, rather than just concealed handgun permits that the majority of other states have. From a purely logical perspective, such a law makes perfect sense to me: If the government trusts you enough to carry a gun, why would it not trust you to carry a knife, taser, or baton? All are less deadly than a gun, one is generally tool, and the other two are designed as less-lethal measures, thus allowing for a continuum of force rather just deadly force from a gun.

  8. #8
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    Thanks! It seems from this that a concealed carry permit for a gun does cover a knife too.
    Now, how about the definitiion of a switchblade knife: Possession of switchblade knife.
    941.24(1) (1) Whoever manufactures, sells or offers to sell, transports, purchases, possesses or goes armed with any knife having a blade which opens by pressing a button, spring or other device in the handle or by gravity or by a thrust or movement is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Does my favorite box cutter, a flipper knife, run the risk of being judged as a switchblade? No button, no gravity, no thrust, but....?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by EdgeCraft View Post
    Thanks! It seems from this that a concealed carry permit for a gun does cover a knife too.
    Now, how about the definitiion of a switchblade knife: Possession of switchblade knife.
    941.24(1) (1) Whoever manufactures, sells or offers to sell, transports, purchases, possesses or goes armed with any knife having a blade which opens by pressing a button, spring or other device in the handle or by gravity or by a thrust or movement is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. Does my favorite box cutter, a flipper knife, run the risk of being judged as a switchblade? No button, no gravity, no thrust, but....?
    Such a definition is common in many other states, and more or less only applies to actual switchblades or butterfly knives. It does not apply to assisted opening knives or manual folders with thumb studs.

  10. #10
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    TThanks again

  11. #11
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    Since the city of milwaukee is very restrictive in what knife you can carry, will wisconsin's new concealed
    weapon carry law make it possible to carry knives in milwaukee that the city of millwaukee would not normally allow?

  12. #12
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    I know I'm late to this, but here's what Milwaukee county has on the books (Racine reads the same):

    The term "dangerous weapon" shall mean and include any instrument which can be used to inflict death or great bodily harm. The following are dangerous per se: blackjack, billy, sandclub, bludgeon, slingshot, pistol, revolver, any instrument which impels a missile by compressed air, spring or other means, any weapon upon which loaded or blank cartridges are used, cross-knuckles, knuckles of any metal, barbed or blade-type arrowhead, bowie knife, dirk knife, dagger, switchblade knife, or any knife which has a blade that is automatically opened by slight pressure on the handle or some other part of the knife, or any other knife having a blade three (3) inches or longer, a container of any kind or character into which tear gas or any similar substance is used or placed for use to cause bodily discomfort or irritation. Instruments herein not specifically enumerated, but falling within the above definition are dangerous weapons nonetheless.

    Penalty.
    Wisconsin's concealed carry permit will allow you to carry a "weapon" and not just a handgun. The implications of that have not been tested in court, as the law doesn't go into effect for 5 more days. On Nov 1st, qualified individuals will be able to send in their applications and the DOJ will have 45 days to issue a permit. Carrying a concealed weapon is not allowed until the permit is issued.

  13. #13
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    I had a cop explain it to me, hes words were "there is no laws against knives unless you commit a crime. no matter what the crime you commit if you are carrying a knife it is one more tic on you".

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmbonham View Post
    I had a cop explain it to me, hes words were "there is no laws against knives unless you commit a crime. no matter what the crime you commit if you are carrying a knife it is one more tic on you".
    That's pretty much the way I've heard it, too, from some of the City of Racine guys. If you don't commit a crime, it's a tool. After you commit a crime, it's a weapon.

  15. #15
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    My friend in racine got a deadly weapons charge for a blade. He was accused of breaking into cars which he didn't do, unlawfully searched, and then went to court and fined. Regardless it was an 11" machete.

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