Lawsuit filed over Wisconsin’s ban on guns near water

Wisconsin allowed fishermen to shoot fish until 1966, when the DNR’s predecessor changed the rules.
Gun stock image

There is a new lawsuit that challenges Wisconsin’s rule that bans people from carrying a gun near the water.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty filed the suit earlier this week, claiming the 1999 rule makes it illegal to “possess or control any firearm, gun or similar device at any time while on the waters, banks or shores that might be used for the purpose of fishing,” goes too far.

WILL Associate Counsel Skylar Croy said the original rule was designed to stop fishermen from shooting musky fish in order to get them in the boat. But she said the Department of Natural Resources is expanding the rule to essentially ban guns near lakes, rivers and other bodies of water.

“[Our client] is entitled to exercise his constitutional rights without fearing unlawful enforcement. We request that the DNR correct its administrative rule to restore the individual liberties our constitution safeguards.” Croy said.

WILL’s client Travis Kobs says the rule means he cannot bring a gun anytime he’s in a state park that has a lake, river or stream.

“I just want to have the ability to protect myself, and responsibly carry a firearm, which I have been doing lawfully in Wisconsin for over 6 years,” Kobs added. “The Second Amendment is meant to apply everywhere, so I hope eliminating this rule can protect the rights of Wisconsin sportsmen.”

Wisconsin allowed fishermen to shoot fish until 1966, when the DNR’s predecessor changed the rules.

The regulations at DNR, however, were expanded in 1999 to ban not just using a firearm to fish but to possess one.

“Until 1966, not only could Wisconsinites possess a small-caliber pistol near or on waters, banks, and shores – they could use that pistol to shoot fish,” WILL lawsuit claims. “From 1966 to 1999, only the actual use of a firearm to shoot fish was banned. Accordingly, the administrative rule’s ban on firearms – even for self-defense – in certain locations is not in keeping with a historical tradition of firearms regulation.”

The lawsuit calls the DNR gun ban a “novel late-20th century regulatory invention,” and says it “gives law enforcement officers ‘broad’ authority to arbitrarily ‘stop or arrest those who do possess guns near water for any reason’.”

WILL is asking a judge in Sheboygan County to strike down the DNR’s rule.