The National Rifle Association is behind a controversial stand your ground law in Wisconsin, a New York Times investigation found. Similar bills are pending in New York, Alaska and Massachusetts.
"Critics see the laws as part of a national campaign by the National Rifle Association," the Times reported.
The laws have received increased scrutiny after George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old, in Florida on Feb. 26. Zimmerman was initially not arrested because he claimed he was acting in self-defense. Under a stand your ground statute passed in Florida in 2005, individuals who feel threatened in a public place have extra legal protections to “meet force with force,” Bloomberg News reported.
The American Legislative Exchange Council has also promoted model legislation based on Florida’s law, the Times reported. The council, known as ALEC, is a conservative organization made of legislators and corporations like Walmart, "a large retailer of long guns," the Times said. The NRA is also a member.
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“Both directly and with cutouts like ALEC, the NRA is slowly and surely and methodically working at the state level to expand the number and kind and category of places where people can carry concealed, loaded weapons and use them with deadly force,” Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, told the Times.
Under the Wisconsin law, called the Castle Doctrine, homeowners have extra legal protections to use deadly force against intruders. One homeowner in Wisconsin cited the doctrine when he shot and killed an unarmed black man on his porch at the end of March, Reuters reported. The shooter has not been arrested.
The Times investigation found that the NRA successfully pushed for an amendment to the Castle Doctrine that extended the bill's protections even further. Under the amendment, homeowners can also shoot people on their lawns, sidewalks, swimming pools and other places outside the home.
“If someone takes a late-night dip in your swimming pool, does that mean you should shoot them?” Senator Jon Erpenbach, a Democrat, told the Times, criticizing the bill.
In a press conference today, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called for a nationwide reform on stand your ground laws, ABC News reported, and blamed the NRA for the laws and for Martin's death.
“In reality the NRA’s leaders weren’t interested in public safety. They were interested in promoting a culture where people take the law into their own hands and face no consequences for it. Let’s call that by its real name, vigilantism,” Bloomberg announced, according to ABC. ”The NRA should be ashamed of themselves."
See our complete Trayvon Martin case coverage.