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Review Weapons Policies in Light of Changes to Gun-Free School Zones Act

On June 25, 2015, Governor Walker signed a bill modifying the Gun-Free School Zones Act (Wis. Stat. § 948.605). The new law, which goes into effect today, modifies the Gun-Free School Zones Act to permit certain off-duty, out-of-state, and former law enforcement officers to possess firearms in school zones.

The Gun-Free School Zones Act prohibits individuals from knowingly possessing firearms on school grounds or within 1,000 feet from school grounds. Before this most recent change in the law, the Gun-Free School Zones Act provided an exception for law enforcement officers who were acting in their official capacity (i.e., who were on duty), as well as individuals who possessed a firearm pursuant to a contract entered into between the school district and the individual or the individual’s employer. Because there was not previously an explicit exception for off-duty officers, many school districts chose to enter into agreements with police departments in order to permit off-duty officers to possess firearms on school grounds.

The new law adds three exceptions to the Gun-Free School Zones Act’s prohibition on possessing a firearm in a school zone:

  1. A Wisconsin law enforcement officer who meets certain conditions (e.g., is not the subject of any disciplinary action that could result in suspension or loss of the person’s law enforcement authority). This exception would apply to off-duty law enforcement officers.
  2. An out-of-state law enforcement officer who meets certain conditions (e.g., is not under the influence of an intoxicant).
  3. A former law enforcement officer who meets certain conditions (e.g., within the preceding 12 months, the former officer met the standards of the state in which he or she resides for training and qualification for active law enforcement officers to carry firearms).

Because the Gun-Free School Zones Act now includes a specific exception for off-duty officers, school districts would no likely longer be required to enter into agreements with police departments in order to permit off-duty officers to possess a firearm on school grounds; instead, this could be accomplished through school board policy. In addition, the board policy should address out-of-state and former law enforcement officers, if the school district wishes to permit such individuals to possess weapons on school grounds.

In light of the changes to the Gun-Free School Zones Act, school districts should review their relevant policies and any existing agreements with law enforcement agencies. If you have questions about this legal update, or if you would like assistance reviewing your weapons policy, please contact Alana Leffler at 262-364-0267 or aleffler@buelowvetter.com, or your Buelow Vetter attorney.

 

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