A lot of local residents are offering opinions that range from a far left, anti-gun viewpoint all the way to Dirty Harry threats if they were to confront anyone in their own home under similar circumstances.
Here, for those who care, is the basic Wisconsin law on when you may use deadly force - hell, when you can shoot an intruder - in self defense, defense of others, and defense of property. This discussion is drawn right from the approved Wisconsin Jury Instructions on these issues. Shooting the Intruder - Wisconsin Law of Self Defense & Defense of Others
- You reasonably believed that someone was actually harming or about to harm you or others (technically, called "interference with your person").
- You reasonably believed that deadly force (force which is either intended to kill or likely to kill) was needed to prevent great bodily harm to you or others.
- Your belief is reasonable if it is what any average Joe would also believe under exactly the same circumstances; not how a Madison jury of hand-wringers might later feel you should have acted, but viewed strictly from your standpoint in the face of danger.
- In Wisconsin you have absolutely no legal duty to retreat from the threat, although if it was possible to beat a safe, fast retreat that can be considered by those jurors later as one of many circumstances you, the average Joe, faced at that very moment.
Use of Force in Defense of Your Home - Wisconsin Law
- IT IS NOT OKAY, AND NOT LAWFUL, TO USE DEADLY FORCE JUST TO PROTECT YOUR HOME AND YOUR PROPERTY. PERIOD. BUT ... (Isn't there always a "but"?) ...
- You CAN use non-deadly force to the extent reasonably necessary to stop someone from "unlawfully interfering with" - or, in English, trespassing in or on or stealing from - your home or your property, and that means everyone's property who lives there.
- You must reasonably believe that someone is interfering with your home or your property under all the circumstances - again, not from the standpoint of a later jury but from your precise standpoint at the moment of great decision, as any ordinary Joe would have believed if he stood in your shoes.
SO ... WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE YOU?
Yes, you can shoot someone who breaks in the house in the middle of the night... IF - and this is a big IF - you reasonably fear death or great harm to you or your loved ones.
No, you cannot shoot the "sumbitch" just because he's trying to get in - or out - of your living room or den with the family stereo. Nor can you do so because he won't "git out da yard!"
But in the latter case, if he makes a move that puts you in great fear of harm or death, or maybe flashes something akin to a deadly weapon or comes at you, you are within your rights to shoot.
So get a 45 magnum? That's a personal choice. Keep in mind that the right to shoot someone and the nerve to shoot someone are two different things - and this isn't deer-hunting, either. So, before you go and stick your friend's Smith & Wesson under the pillow or atop the nightstand, ask yourself: would you? Could you? Because if you are unsure, there is a better than even chance that the only time that 6-shooter will get fired is AT YOU - by the far more criminal-thinking intruder (guns are the most popular item taken in break-in's) or - worse - by a kid who finds it and plays around with it, like kids often do.
My two cents: Consider a loud, large, barking dog. Burglars hate 'em. Leave the Dirty Harry stuff for those who are well-experienced with guns and shooting them. Or become that person yourself. And if you do, keep the guns away from those who don't. Like your kids.
Channel 3 Madison, Fitchburg Intruder Shot & Killed