Wisconsin is a rod-and-gun state, with a hunting history that has fostered traditions of broad gun ownership and respect for the right to bear arms.
So how did Wisconsin get saddled with a “Castle Doctrine” law that mirrors some of the worst aspects of the Florida legislation that’s now at the center of the controversy over the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.
Not because sportsmen and women, law enforcement officers, legal scholars or grassroots citizens decided Wisconsin should borrow bad ideas from distant states.
Wisconsin has a "Castle Doctrine" law because the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-funded group that aligns special-interest organizations and corporate donors with pliable legislators, made the Florida law "model legislation." Then ALEC-aligned political insiders such as Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder, a national ALEC task-force member, and Governor Scott Walker, an ALEC alumnus, introduced, passed and signed “Castle Doctrine” legislation—despite warnings from Wisconsin law enforcement leaders and responsible gun owners that it was a poor fit for the state.
How poor a fit became evident last week, when the district attorney in Wisconsin’s Washington County announced that he would not pursue a serious inquiry into the death of Bo Morrison, a 20-year-old Wisconsinite who was shot and killed in the village of Slinger. Morrison, who had been at an underage drinking party that was broken up by the police, was one of a number of young people who ran and hid in the surrounding neighborhood. He was hiding on the porch of an adjacent home when the homeowner—who knew police were in the area—shot him in the chest. The DA determined that the homeowner was protected from prosecution by the state’s new "Castle Doctrine."
The Wisconsin case is complicated, and no one has suggested that Morrison was a perfect player. But he was unarmed. And there is no evidence that he physically or verbally threatened the shooter. For that reason, the decision of the DA , and the narrowing of options for a proper investigation by the "Castle Doctrine," has provoked outrage from citizens and some legislators. State Representative Chris Taylor, a Madison Democrat and a lawyer who was outspoken in her opposition to the measure last year, now says: “It is heartbreaking that the legislature allowed this reckless law to go forward and now a young man is dead,” concluded Taylor. “This law encourages people to resort to vigilantism and use deadly force instead of calling the police. This is a barbaric law that must be immediately repealed.”