MADISON — New legislation signed Friday by Gov. Scott Walker modifies state law concerning the manner in which long-barreled firearms, bows and crossbows can be transported in motor vehicles or placed in or on stationary vehicles.
The new law will be published in time to take effect Nov. 19, opening day of the traditional, nine-day, 2011 gun deer season.
In its essence, the new law can be boiled down to a single statement, said Tim Lawhern, DNR division of enforcement and science administrator.
“Unless otherwise prohibited, you can carry a long gun, uncased and unloaded, in or on a motor vehicle in Wisconsin at any time,” Lawhern said. The DNR has prepared a frequently asked questions on Wis. Act 51 page that available on the law enforcement pages of the DNR website.
While the law has changed, Lawhern said, there will still be many people who will continue to use a carrying case to transport unloaded firearms in motor vehicles, as hunters have been and will continue to be advised in hunter education courses.
“It’s a great way to protect your investment in your firearms,” Lawhern said.
As is always the case with a new law, Lawhern said, the first year is an educational opportunity.
DNR chief warden Randy Stark has already provided the state’s warden force with detailed instructions on the new law and its enforcement. Wardens will use a mix of enforcement, communication and education to help hunters understand and comply with the new law, Lawhern said.
“We are always ready to help people in the field, to answer their questions and to provide advice,” Lawhern said.
Here are a few things hunters might need to know about the new law:
•A caveat to the uncased long gun rule – the new legislation does not change Wisconsin law regulating the practice of shining (illuminating) wild animals at night with artificial light. It will still be illegal to possess a firearm of any kind, loaded or unloaded, while shining wild animals.
•The new law allows individuals to hunt from a stationary non-motorized vehicle, such as a hay wagon, so long as it is not attached to a motor vehicle. Previously, hunting from any vehicle was prohibited, without the distinction of whether the vehicle was motorized or stationary. This change previously had been sought by warden administrators. “People used to have to take one or more wheels off the hay wagon to comply with the letter of the law,” Lawhern said.
•It will be legal to possess and transport uncased bows and crossbows in a vehicle. However, bows may not have an arrow nocked. A crossbow may not be cocked unless it is unloaded (meaning the bolt or arrow is removed) and cased.
•When in or on a vehicle which is stationary, long guns can be both uncased and loaded. A stationary vehicle can have the motor running. “Stationary” means not moving, regardless of whether the motor is running. This allows a hunter, at a stationary vehicle, to place a loaded gun on a clean, dry surface.
Wisconsin hunters, as a group, are among the best trained and safest hunters in the world, said Lawhern. This is thanks in large part to the legions of volunteer hunter safety instructors who donate their time each year to educate new hunters.
“Our hunters have established an enviable safety record,” Lawhern said. “We fully expect the vast majority of hunters in Wisconsin will continue to use common sense and safe practices when handling firearms. For most of us, these practices have become second nature.”
Here are the four basic rules of gun safety, as taught in hunter education:
•Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
•Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
•Be certain of your target and what’s beyond.
•Keep your finger outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Tim Lawhern, DNR enforcement and science division administrator, (608) 264-6133