With lack of options, UW-Madison hunting club searches for gun storage solution

MADISON, Wis. – Rising gun thefts in the city are at the top of some University of Wisconsin-Madison students’ minds as they tackle difficulties finding proper firearm storage.

“Hunting is such a big part of Wisconsin’s culture,” said Dane Federman, a UW-Madison senior from Green Bay. “You still want to be able to do it when you’re in college.”

Federman knew he was in the right spot when he found the Badger Hunting Club, bringing new hunters together with the more seasoned.

“Hunting’s always been something I’ve really enjoyed with the idea that you really have to have every detail right,” he said.

Those details include a proper storage spot for a gun to take hunting, which is a bit tougher on campus, especially for those living in dorms or places where they’re not allowed.

“It’s quite obviously not allowed on campus, not allowed on any intuitional property, so just having a space to store it safely and not have to hide it somewhere was super helpful,” said McKenzie Trinko, the club’s outreach and social media chair.

For years, that safe space was at the UW Police Department, which offered free storage to people affiliated with the university.

“I know a lot of members that have used it over the years, and it is a great tool,” Federman said.

UWPD ended that arrangement earlier this year, citing a lack of use along with logistical concerns. That raised alarms for some Badger Hunting Club members who use it. News of the change took Trinko by surprise.

“I had my firearm with me, and I was very concerned as to where to put it at that point,” Trinko said.

Any person with a license to carry a firearm may store it in their personal vehicle on campus. That’s where club members are concerned students will turn.

A News 3 Now investigation in September revealed the majority of stolen guns in recent years were taken from vehicles, with such crimes rising sharply in 2020.

Federman said the arrangement with UWPD gave students an accessible, safe option.

“It really is a great resource,” Federman said. “It keeps us from just storing it in the trunks of cars, which is obviously not very safe. On top of that, even just hiding it in your apartment building or dorm, again not very safe. When we could store them there it brought peace of mind more than anything else.”

According to a UWPD spokesperson, the ending of the program is partly because of liability issues, such as the need to perform full background checks when returning a firearm. That includes making sure no recent crimes were committed that would not allow the person to legally have a gun, and takes a good amount of time.

The UWPD spokesperson also said not many other college police departments offer something like this and not many people used their service in particular. He said it was “incredibly underused,” with about one to two people taking advantage of it per year.

The Badger Hunting Club has 300 members, and approximately dozens are active. Trinko imagines a handful would use the service, and she doesn’t want any gun – especially hers – falling in the wrong hands.

“Crimes happen all the time, gun crimes happen all the time,” Trinko said. “I don’t want me connected to any of that, or rather my firearm.”

Members worry a UWPD suggestion to store guns about a half hour away at a Deerfield pistol shop for a fee isn’t realistic for students.

They’re also concerned general storage units don’t have enough oversight.

Federman hopes they’ll be able to work with UWPD, which he said has been helpful to them in the past, to address concerns and reach a solution.