Castle doctrines pose threat to safety
Jon Mack, Clarion Staff
March 27, 2012
Filed under Opinions
A 10-year-old girl is shot dead as she runs into a neighbor’s house for help while her grandfather lay dying of a heart attack. A volunteer for the local food pantry distributing contribution bags surprises a homeowner in the dark early evening hours and is killed. Another man’s teenage daughter’s boyfriend catches her father off guard as he enters the family’s back door like he has many times before. The girl’s father, unaware the boy was visiting assumes he is an intruder. He only sees his back in the darkened stairway but that is enough of a target for several bullets.
Tragic as any of these scenarios may be, they are much more likely now under Wisconsin’s new Castle Doctrine law. What was advertised as a self-defense law is a license to kill anyone who is on your porch or in any other part of your home.
Bo Morrison was a 20-year-old man from the Wisconsin. On March 3 he was at a party in Slinger when the police arrived. He fled to avoid an underage drinking ticket and entered the porch of a nearby home. According to the owner of that home, he heard noises on the porch so he got his gun and went out to see what the noises were. The noises were a drunken Morrison whose life was taken with a single shot.
Morrison was not out to do anyone harm and did not need to be killed.
The new Castle Doctrine law encourages this type of shoot first and ask questions later approach. Any threat, real or imagined, can be met with deadly force and the shooter is presumed innocent of any and all wrongdoing. This law could potentially be a license to kill. A fundamental flaw of this law is that the person doing the killing is often the only witness. So assuming police do a proper investigation, they are still left with only one person’s side of the story since the only person who can tell the whole truth is now dead. The new law is designed to protect and justify the actions the shooter.
The tragic death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of an overzealous wannabe vigilante in Florida is the result of a similar newer gun law. By all accounts, except for his killer’s, Trayvon was guilty only of walking down the street with his hood up. However in the mind of George Zimmerman, he was a threat. Zimmerman followed and confronted Trayvon even after a 911 dispatcher told him to back off. Zimmerman shot and killed Martin and has yet to be charged with any crime related to the shooting. Under these new gun laws, shooters only need to convince the police to accept their story, not a judge or a jury. The law that has protected Zimmerman is called the Stand Your Ground law and though it is different than the Castle Doctrine law here in Wisconsin, the Castle Doctrine law was modeled after it.
The American Legislative Exchange Council is a secretive, corporate funded conservative group that is responsible for writing model legislation and passing it on to state legislatures throughout the country to be made into law. Since Gov. Walker took office, the Wisconsin Republican legislature has passed several laws handed down to them from ALEC. Among these laws is the new voter ID law as well as the law that ended collective bargaining for government employees. The Wisconsin Castle Doctrine has been written, promoted and brought to our state thanks to a partnership between ALEC and the National Rifle Association.
Two innocent young men are dead because of these laws. The men who killed them are free to do the same thing again. In both of these cases the shooters were not under any real threat. These were not accidents. These were choices. As long as Wisconsin’s Castle Doctrine law stays in place more innocent people will die. These innocent deaths will not be accidents, but choices.