MADISON, Wis. — A gun rights group has filed a lawsuit against Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen alleging his state Justice Department's new concealed carry rules improperly limit training class sizes.
DOJ published permanent rules implementing Wisconsin's concealed carry law on May 31. They took effect June 1. The regulations require concealed carry permit applicants to show they've taken a hunter's safety course, been discharged from the military, gotten small-arms military training or gone through an instructor-led firearms training course. The rules limit the size of instructor-led courses to 50 students per teacher.
Wisconsin Carry Inc., a Waukesha-based gun rights group, filed suit Thursday alleging the ratio is too restrictive. The concealed carry law doesn't impose student-teacher ratios so DOJ lacks the authority to create any, the lawsuit said. What's more, nothing proves 51 students can't learn from a single teacher as well as 50 and the agency didn't create any ratios for hunter safety or military courses, the lawsuit added.
The group's attorney, John Monroe, said in a telephone interview Wisconsin Carry offers free firearms training around the state as what he termed "a public service." A single instructor sometimes teaches a classroom of a couple hundred students, he said. The group doesn't have enough instructors to offer classes to as many people who want to take them if it must abide by the ratio, he said.
"They've already got people signed up for classes that exceed the ratio. They won't be able to offer the classes. It's already causing a problem," Monroe said.
He said Wisconsin Carry made DOJ officials aware of the issue as they were drafting the rules but the agency published them regardless.
DOJ spokeswoman Dana Brueck declined comment.
Wisconsin's concealed carry law allows any state resident at least 21 years old who can legally possess a gun and show proof of training to obtain a permit from DOJ. The agency has issued just shy of 190,550 permits since the law went into effect in November 2011.
The Wisconsin Carry lawsuit isn't the first dust-up between Van Hollen and his fellow conservatives over DOJ rules implementing the law.
Republicans recoiled at provisions in an early version of the agency's temporary rules that called for at least four hours of training and completion certificates with instructors' signatures, contact information and locations; they said the law doesn't require a minimum amount of training or an instructor's signature to verify completion. The Legislature's rules committee ultimately suspended those sections of the regulations.
The permanent rules don't include any of the provisions the committee struck down. But they make a number of changes in addition to the new student-instructor ratio, including reducing the application fee from $50 to $43 and requiring firearms courses to include instruction in how to handle guns and ammunition safely, the use of deadly force and how to avoid violent confrontations.