On Monday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments on State v. Octavia W. Dodson, a case that raises the issue of using lawful gun ownership as an aggravating sentencing factor. According to the Wisconsin State Public Defender's On Point site, Dodson pleaded guilty to second degree intentional homicide for shooting a person he thought was driving a car that had rear-ended him, driven away, and then returned to pursue him. The mitigating factor that induced the state to charge second as opposed to first degree intentional homicide was Dodson’s unnecessary defensive force. Dodson had a permit to carry the concealed pistol he used to shoot the victim, but the sentencing court said that obtaining the concealed-carry permit and the gun changed and “distorted” Dodson’s view of the world and his fellow citizens, turning other people into perceived threats, thereby implying that Dodson’s exercise of his right to bear arms put him on the a path toward violent behavior. The supreme court will now attempt to answer both (a) the broad question of if and when lawful—indeed, constitutionally protected—conduct can be an aggravating sentencing factor; and, if it can’t, then (b) the more specific question of how to tell when the sentencing court relied on that kind of improper factor in imposing sentence.

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