Friday, November 04, 2011

Are gun extremists ever satisfied?

The one thing that we have learned this year is that nothing ever seems to be good enough for the truly gun obsessed. They are apparently never happy and always seek the most extreme "solutions" to problems that often don't actually exist. Just when you think that they have achieved what they want, they just keep pushing for the furthest fringe. Exactly how far do they want to go with fully arming our entire society? Are there any limits at all and are the rest of us willing to let them drag us to such a dangerous place?

In Wisconsin the gun lobby has been unsuccessful in pushing concealed carry legislation for years. This year they finally got what we thought they wanted as concealed carry legislation was passed into law and recently enacted. However that wasn't good enough for the gun lobby because they didn't want any permit process whatsoever in the law. When their own ally, Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, presented very modest rules for the concealed carry process, they even attacked him. Apparently their constituency can't even handle the idea of having a whole 4 hours of "training" with a deadly weapon. I'm fairly certain that we can look forward to them trying to undermine the handful of weak requirements in Wisconsin's concealed carry law. Perhaps they will try it through additional legislation in Wisconsin's legislature or perhaps they will try to do it through big government legislation that they are trying to work through Congress.

As soon as the ink was dry on the enacted concealed carry legislation, the extremist gun lobby proceeded to the next item on their wish list, the so-called Castle Doctrine. It might be more accurately described as the Shoot First Doctrine. Feeding an apparent Dirty Harry obsession, this legislation would allow people to become judge, jury, and executioner if an intruder enters their home or business. In fact they seem to keep trying to extend where this law would apply (to things like the porch, driveway, and even adjoining sidewalks). It wouldn't matter if the intruder was unarmed and it wouldn't matter if they were not an actual physical threat.

Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm opposed the legislation saying the following:

Wisconsin, like most states, doesn't need a castle doctrine because current law, refined over the last half century, provides more than adequate protection for anyone legitimately acting in self-defense. "The statute in place right now is actually a very good standard, very workable, functional definition of self-defense," he said. Chisholm called the current bill a solution in search of a problem, one that "seems to introduce ambiguity that will make it difficult for law enforcement to make fine distinctions."

The Criminal Law Section of the Wisconsin State Bar also opposed the Castle Doctrine legislation.

"AB 69 changes Wisconsin law by providing a defense for irrational people armed with deadly force. Under its provisions, malevolent, reckless, or paranoid people who shoot trick-or-treaters or repairmen on their porch will be presumed to be acting in self-defense."

" provides a solid defense, and a favorable jury instruction, for any man who kills his wife in the family home and lies about it in court."
Nevertheless the Wisconsin Assembly quickly passed the bill earlier this week. In fact they did it so quickly that they failed to include proper protections for people like police, firefighters and other first responders. So after the legislation passed the state Senate the Assembly had to pass the new version. On Thursday the Castle Doctrine bill passed the legislature and awaits Scott Walker's signature.

But once again, passing the so-called Castle Doctrine is still not good enough. Earlier this week, just as the state Assembly took up this flawed legislation, the chairman of Wisconsin Carry Inc. suggested that this was only the beginning. He admitted that the home is the safest place that a person could be (so why the need for the Castle Doctrine then?) and that it is more important to have the "protections" of the Castle Doctrine law outside of the home. He is referring to the next leap to the fringe which is known as "stand your ground" provisions. It looks like vigilantism really is on the agenda.

This brings us back to my initial set of questions: Exactly how far do they want to go with fully arming our entire society? Are there any limits at all and are the rest of us really willing to let them drag us to such a dangerous place?

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

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