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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


Private sales of handguns to individuals age 18 are allowed in Wisconsin, as long as the buyer and seller live in Wisconsin and the buyer is not otherwise prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms under federal law.

Federal firearms licensed dealers, however, are prohibited by federal law from selling a handgun to anyone under 21.

Twenty-two states, including Iowa and Illinois, have laws that prohibit handgun sales to people under 21, according to the anti gun-violence group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Wisconsin does not.

Democratic state lawmakers in Wisconsin introduced legislation in June 2023 to require background checks on all gun sales. Currently, background checks are required only in sales made by federally licensed gun dealers — not private sales.

Republicans control the Wisconsin Legislature and have declined to implement universal background checks in the past.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


US Concealed Carry Association Wisconsin Gun Laws: What You Need to Know

Wisconsin State Legislature Firearm Regulation in Wisconsin

US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Does a customer have to be a certain age to buy firearms or ammunition from a licensee?

US Concealed Carry Association Federal Private Firearm Transfer Laws

Everytown Research & Policy Has the state raised the minimum age for purchasing firearms?

US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives May an individual between the ages of 18 and 21 years of age acquire a handgun from an unlicensed individual who is also a resident of that same state?

DocumentCloud 2023 background check bill Wisconsin Legislature

Wisconsin Public Radio After Call From Students, GOP Blocks Measure On Background Checks For Gun Purchases

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Tom Kertscher joined as a Wisconsin Watch fact checker in January 2023 and contributes to our collaboration with the The Gigafact Project to fight misinformation online. Kertscher is a former longtime newspaper reporter, including at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who has worked as a self-employed journalist since 2019. His gigs include contributing writer for PolitiFact and sports freelancer for The Associated Press.