Monday, November 23, 2009

Proposed Change to Self-Defense Law

Critics say a bill aimed at broadening the right to self-defense would have unintended consequences, making it harder for prosecutors to convict murderers. Pennsylvania law justifies the use of deadly force in self-defense, but requires people outside their homes or workplaces to try to retreat first, if they think that’s safe and possible. A bill before the House would eliminate that provision. It would read that a threatened person “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and use protective force, including deadly force.”

National Rifle Association state liaison John Hohenwarter supports that. "You know there’s nothing more dangerous than turning your back on a violent criminal. There’s nothing more dangerous than doing that. That’s why we’re looking at changing 'duty to retreat to stand your ground.'"

Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico says if the bill passes, it would open up a loophole and allow drug dealers charged in shoot-outs to claim a legitimate defense.

"The defense attorney’s going to have a tool to raise, and that’s going to be that he didn’t have the duty to retreat, that he acted in self-defense. And we’ll have that guy—probably an illegal gun carrier—he’ll be acquitted and released back on the street to purvey violence, to provide more drugs. That’s what’s going to happen."

Marsico says the bill is “well-intentioned,” but would have “disastrous effects.”

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