Concealed Carry Weapons (CCW) – Alcohol, Taverns & Your Vehicle
Updated: May 28
I frequently receive questions regarding CCW permits and alcohol. This guide is intended to provide the basics regarding alcohol, taverns, and your licensed concealed carry weapon.
Does my CCW license permit me to carry my weapon in a tavern?
First, what is a tavern? Under Wisconsin law, a tavern is defined as any establishment, other than a private or fraternal organization, in which alcoholic beverages are sold for consumption on the premises. Wis. Stat. §941.237(1)(fm) and (3)(cx).
Second, what is a weapon for purposes of a CCW license? A weapon is defined as a handgun, an electric weapon as defined in Wis. Stat. §941.295(1c)(a), or a billy club. Note that a handgun does not include a machine gun, a short-barreled rifle or a short-barreled shotgun. Rifles and shotguns may not be carried concealed. Here, for illustrative purposes, is Michael Scott (Scarn) demonstrating the improper handling of a weapon.
Now that we know what a tavern and a weapon are, if I have a CCW license, may I carry my firearm in a tavern? Yes, but with restrictions. You may carry your concealed handgun into a tavern only if you are not consuming alcohol. Wis. Stat. 941.237(3)(cx). Note, however, that owners and occupants of private property may legally prohibit persons from carrying a concealed firearm in or on their property. Typically, such signage is posted at the front door. Also, before entering the tavern with your weapon, think long and hard about the prudence of bringing a loaded firearm near others who are drinking.
May I consume alcohol while armed with my firearm?
The short answer is yes if you are not legally impaired. The smart answer is no. Alcohol and a loaded weapon is a recipe for an accident. In Wisconsin it is a class A misdemeanor (9 months jail and/or $10,000 fine) for any person, whether or not they are a licensee, to go armed with a firearm while under the influence of an intoxicant. Wis. Stat. §941.20(1)(b).
Be incredibly careful! In Wisconsin, under the influence is defined as "materially impairing the ability to handle a firearm." In other words, consuming an amount of alcohol which causes the person to be less able to exercise clear judgment and steady hand necessary to handle a firearm. WI Jury Instruction-CRIMINAL 1321. The best and safest course of action is to never consume alcohol when handling or transporting a firearm.
May I transport my weapon in my vehicle if I have a CCW license?
Yes, under the CCW law, a person with a CCW license may carry a concealed weapon in a vehicle. A firearm within reach on a seat is considered concealed. Note, however, that long guns still must be unloaded and not hidden when within reach. Rifles and shotguns in a vehicle must be unloaded and must be readily visible from outside the vehicle or be out of reach of the driver and passengers.
If you choose to consume alcohol and drive while transporting your weapon, exercise extra caution. In addition to one too many drinks putting you at risk for an OWI, you may face additional charges including operating a firearm while intoxicated.
What should I do if I have contact with a law enforcement officer while carrying a concealed weapon?
Wisconsin law states that you must display a photo ID and a CCW license upon request of a law enforcement officer. However, if you are stopped for a traffic violation or have another contact with an officer, it is smart to immediately advise the officer that you have a valid CCW license and that you are carrying your weapon. Keep your hands where the officer can see them and do not make any quick movements towards the officer or the weapon. Wait for the officer’s instructions concerning the weapon and then comply fully with the officer's instructions. Again, for illustrative purposes, here is Deputy Fife expressing a clear law enforcement command to an individual.
The officer may take your weapons for safety purposes during the duration of the stop or interaction. Assuming that you are not arrested, and your CCW license is valid, the officer should return the weapon to you at the end of the interaction.
CCW and Existing Laws:
Your CCW license does not change other existing laws governing the conduct of individuals and the use of weapons. Examples of prohibited conduct include disorderly conduct, carrying your firearm while unlawfully using controlled substances, recklessly endanger the safety of another person, and many more.
The Wisconsin Department of Justice has numerous guides and FAQs on its website containing additional information regarding CCW licensing and regulations. Wisconsin DOJ Concealed Carry FAQ
Contact Attorney Skarie with additional questions:
If you’ve been charged with a weapon or alcohol-related crime, don’t hesitate to contact criminal defense Attorney Dan Skarie.