WISCONSINREPORT.COM (12/17/07) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Secretary Matt Frank and Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Rick Raemisch have announced that a new initiative targeting certain felons who illegally possess firearms is producing strong results. The initiative is said to be resulting in a safer Wisconsin for hunters and others who enjoy the state’s outdoors. One of the provisions of the initiative allows felons to drive deer as part of a hunting party – but they may not carry, possess or use a firearm.
State and federal laws prohibit felons from possessing or owning firearms for life, even those who legally obtain DNR hunting licenses. All hunting licenses issued by the DNR contain a disclaimer on the back that reads, “A hunting license by the DNR does not authorize the possession of a firearm by a felon.”
“By teaming up and sharing information, we’re identifying felons on probation and parole who legally cannot possess firearms, and we’re preventing them from entering the woods or elsewhere with a firearm to hunt,” Secretary Frank said.
“This new initiative augments the ongoing efforts by our DNR wardens and others to promote safer Wisconsin woods for everyone,” Frank says.
“I commend the great work of our probation and parole agents, field supervisors and others in the department on the success of this initiative, which also wouldn’t be possible without the involvement of our many law enforcement partners throughout the state,” Secretary Raemisch added.
“By collaborating with other agencies, we are enhancing our strategies in Corrections to hold offenders accountable, resulting in enhanced community safety,” Raemisch continued.
Under the new initiative, which began this fall, the DNR’s hunting license data was checked against names of felons who are under active community supervision by the DOC.
Corrections agents initiated investigations of 62 felons whose names appeared on both lists, to either verify compliance with state law and their rules of supervision, or to take them into custody for investigation.
In all, 19 of the felons targeted in the initial sweep were taken into custody and investigated either for possible firearm possession, or for possible unrelated rule violations that agents identified during home visits, interviews and other investigative activities.
Felons may hunt small game and other species in Wisconsin as long as a firearm is not used. Use of other types of weapons – such as a bow and arrow – is permitted.
However, felons who are under probation, parole or extended supervision by the DOC face additional restrictions, including a prohibition against the possession of any weapon without prior agent approval. Offenders who fail to comply with this rule face sanctions up to and including revocation of supervision and a return to custody, regardless of whether the offender is ultimately charged with a new crime.
The no-weapon rule remains in effect until the offender completes his or her sentence and discharges from the DOC’s supervision.
The initial phase of this initiative encompassed data on hunting license sales that predated Wisconsin’s 2007 gun deer hunting season.
The DOC currently is following up with data on licenses sold during the 2007 season, and more offenders are being taken into custody as a result. Meanwhile, the DNR and DOC are working on an agreement to formalize a regular data exchange process for the future.