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Self-defense bill gets committee OK

Published (4/29/2011)
By Mike Cook
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Displaying a photograph of a gun victim and her shooter, Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, testifies before a packed House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee April 28 in opposition to a bill that would amend the law on use of force in defense of a person’s home. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)A bill that would expand the use of deadly force in cases of self-defense was approved by a House committee.

Sponsored by Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Good Thunder), HF1467 would, in part, change state law governing the use of force in self defense, including that an individual using deadly force is presumed to possess a reasonable belief that there exists an imminent threat of great bodily harm or death.

“It’s not shoot first; it’s not shoot on a whim,” said Attorney David Gross. “You have to reasonably believe certain things or have certain facts be true. You don’t go shooting at shadows.”

The House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee approved the bill April 28 on a 10-7 party-line vote and sent it to the House Judiciary Policy and Finance Committee. It has no Senate companion.

“I like to refer to this as a self-defense bill,” Cornish said, adding it would allow a person to decide what type of force is needed to repel an invader or a threat.

The bill also does a number of other things, including:

• extends the effective period of a permit-to-purchase a firearm from one to five years;

• mandates improved reporting of mental health and criminal background data to state and federal databases used in making background checks;

• delimits the authority of peace officers to disarm individuals during times of a public emergency or disorder; and

• requires Minnesota to recognize a permit-to-carry issued by another state.

Proponents say the bill better lets law-abiding citizens defend their property and stand their ground.

“As a father, as a husband, it’s a duty to me to protect my house, protect my family,” said Rep. John Kriesel (R-Cottage Grove). “This bill sends a message to criminals, and I believe it will act as a deterrent.”

Opponents said current law adequately protects law-abiding citizens; a homeowner could use deadly force against an unarmed person who mistakenly tries to enter a dwelling; and fear of officer safety, especially when they surprise someone on their property while executing their duties.

“Such a law would, in essence, allow a person to shoot first and ask questions later whenever they believe they are exposed to substantial harm regardless of how a reasonable person would have responded under the circumstances or would have perceived the gravity of the danger presented,” said Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.

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