Tue 21 Jun, 2011 10:03 pm
Pennsylvania Senate Votes to Expand The Right
to Use Deadly Force Against Attackers
By Amy Worden
Inquirer Harrisburg Bureau
In Pennsylvania, as in most states, your home is your castle and you have a right to defend it.
Soon, you will be able to add your car. Or the sidewalk.
Or anywhere you "have the legal right to be."
The state Senate, in a 45-5 vote, gave final approval Monday to the
so-called castle doctrine bill to expand the right of people to use
deadly force against attackers in places outside their homes.
A spokesman for Gov. Corbett said the governor would sign the bill
but was not sure when.
The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Scott Perry (R., York), eliminates
a requirement that people try to retreat before using deadly force in those situations.
Proponents - led by the National Rifle Association - say the legislation
would enhance public safety by exempting gun owners acting in
self-defense from prosecution.
"Law-abiding gun owners should not have to fear prosecution for
acting to prevent a violent crime," said Sen. Richard Alloway (R., Franklin).
"I am thankful that the General Assembly has taken action to protect
responsible gun owners who respond when facing a serious threat from a criminal."
Opponents, including a number of police chiefs and mayors, argue that
existing laws provide adequate safeguards and warn the bill could foster
a "Wild West" mentality.
"This is going to be dangerous for Pennsylvanians," said Max Nacheman,
executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun-control group. "This creates
more situations in which violence is an alternative."
Pennsylvania law, like that of New Jersey and most other states,
already establishes that a person has a right to defend himself in his home.
In at least two dozen states, however, the law goes further, removing
a person's "duty to retreat" - say, to rush inside and bolt the door -
before using deadly force.
Gov. Ed Rendell vetoed a similar measure last year, saying it would
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association had opposed the bill,
but dropped its opposition after it was amended to make it harder
to use as a defense for criminal activity.
One Philadelphia-area prosecutor called the bill "a solution in search of
a problem" and said he feared the law could still make it more difficult
to prosecute criminals.
"We'll probably not be caused much difficulty by it in Bucks County,"
said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler. "But I think in an
urban environment, where there are lots of people carrying firearms
on the street, it may well mean that some people who should be
convicted of murder end up walking."
Said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams: "Though this law is
not necessary because current law respects and protects those lawfully
exercising their right to self-defense, if there must be a new law
expanding the castle doctrine, this legislation contains the best language possible."
Soon, it will not be as safe
to practice violent, predatory crime in Pennsylvannia.