The House has passed a bill expanding a person’s right to self defense in Pennsylvania. However, many Democrats are upset, because they weren’t allowed to debate the measure before a vote.
The Castle Doctrine bill lets a person use deadly force to defend his or her property, and limits the duty to retreat first, before fending off an intruder or attacker. It passed on a 159-38 vote, after Minority Leader Sam Smith successfully used a parliamentary move stifling debate, and prohibiting members from offering amendments.
Democrat Dwight Evans said the maneuver hurt the House’s credibility.
"You may win this today, but mark my words. If you’re round here long enough, there will be a day when there’s something you want to express – there will be a day. And someone will do the same thing to you."
House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin says that’s exactly what Evans and other Democratic leaders did last week, when they inserted severance tax language into an unrelated Senate bill, in order to bring it to the floor without considering amendments.
However, other Democrats opposed the essence of the legislation. Representative Dan Frankel of Pittsburgh said citizens already have the right to defend themselves and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association sent House members a letter urging them to reject the legislation. The letter said, "Under current law, a resident never has the duty to retreat if he or she is threatened inside of his or her home or place of work, regardless of whether the person can safely retreat. Moreover, outside of home or work, a person has a duty to retreat only if that person knows that he or she can retreat with complete safety. Current law affords great protection to residents threatened by deadly force, while balancing the need to reduce violent physical confrontation."
"Law abiding citizens who protect themselves from criminals will not be the beneficiaries of this bill. Criminals will. This legislation is a ready-made defense for violent criminals -- a defense which their attorneys will exploit in court," the district attorneys' letter said.
A Senate Republican spokesman says leaders in the upper chamber are receptive to the bill – but there are only three days left to get it passed this year.