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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Knife Law Reform

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The Wisconsin Assembly has passed a knife law pre-emption and reform bill by voice vote.  The bill, AB 124, has a companion bill, SB 102 that is expected to be voted on in the Senate in the next few days.   Here is an analysis of AB 124, from

This substitute amendment eliminates the prohibition against possessing, purchasing, or selling a switchblade knife. This substitute amendment treats knives in the same manner as current law treats firearms by prohibiting local governments from regulating the sale, purchase, or possession of knives and prohibiting charging a person with disorderly conduct for going armed with a knife without criminal intent. Finally, this substitute amendment eliminates a knife from being considered a weapon for purposes of a license to carry a concealed weapon, and eliminates the general prohibition against going armed with a concealed knife except that, under the substitute amendment, a person who is prohibited under state from possessing a firearm may not go armed with a concealed knife that is a dangerous weapon.

The last clause reduces the classes of persons who are prohibited from carrying concealed knifes that are “dangerous weapons” to those who are prohibited by law from possessing firearms.  The phrase “dangrous weapon” has always been ambiguous, and has been used to cover a wide variety of instruments in Wisconsin courts.

Wisconsin law prohibits the following classes of people from possessing firearms.  A person who:

  • Has been convicted of a felony
  • Adjudicated delinquent for an act committed on or after April 21, 1994, that if committed by an adult would be a felony
  • Has been found not guilty of a felony by reason of mental disease or defect
  • Has been committed under mental health laws and ordered not to possess a firearm
  • Is the subject of a restraining order
  • Is ordered not to possess firearms as a subject of a restraining order or as a condition of bond or parole

It has been reported by Knife Rights that an amendment was added to the law that allows political subdivisions to prohibit knives in buildings. From

An amendment was added to AB 142 that retains political subdivisions’ ability to “[prohibit] the possession of a knife in a building, or part of a building, that is owned, occupied, or controlled by the political subdivision.”

The amendment was not showing on the Wisconsin legislative site as of the time of publication.

Wisconsin has had a patchwork of local ordinances restricting knives as well as state law prohibiting the carry of concealed weapons without a permit.   That law has been interpreted to include many ordinary knives by various judges, particularly in the urban centers of Milwaukee and Racine.  Wisconsin also has an antiquated ban on switchblade knives passed  at the height of switchblade hysteria.   AB 124  would make the knife laws of Wisconsin uniform throughout the State.   It remains to be seen if the carveout for government buildings will pass the Senate. 

AB 142 passed the Assembly  with strong bi-partisan support.  Democrat support for knife reform legislation increased significantly after the  death of Freddy Gray after the arrest for possession of an ordinary pocket knife in Baltimore this year.

Wisconsin passed a strong right to keep and bear arms amendment to its state constitution in 1998.  This law is a reflection of that amendment.  The amendment reads:

“The people have the right to keep and bear arms for security, defense, hunting, recreation or any other lawful purpose.”

It is hard to see how any fair reading of the amendment could allow for a law that prevents people from carrying knives, which have been arms used for security, defense, hunting, recreation and other lawful purposes as long as there have been people.

Representative Kathleen Bernier (R- Chippawa Falls) was the primary sponsor of the bill in the Assembly. 

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Link to Gun Watch

An amendment was added to AB 142 that retains political subdivisions’ ability to “[prohibit] the possession of a knife in a building, or part of a building, that is owned, occupied, or controlled by the political subdivision.” – See more at:


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