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Mendota Heights Legislators Oppose Expansion of 'Castle Doctrine'

The controversial bill could be sent to the governor's desk this week.

The Minnesota Senate passed a bill last Thursday lowering the threshold for use of deadly force by civilians, an expansion of Minnesota law commonly known as the "castle doctrine."

Both Rep. Rick Hansen (D-South St. Paul)  and Sen. Jim Metzen (D-South St. Paul) have voted against the proposal. 

Metzen and other opposition refer to the proposal as the “shoot-first bill.”

“I think there’s enough laws and regulations on the books today,” said Metzen. “This is really loosely written.”

The castle doctrine already in law allows use of deadly force to prevent a felony from happening in one’s home.

Under the proposed language, called the Defense of Dwelling and Person Act, that lawful use of force is expanded beyond the home, and emphasis is put on a perception of threat when determining if force is appropriate.

full bill summary is available on the Minnesota Legislature’s website.

The National Rifle Association (NRA) backs the bill. A statement released Thursday by the NRA says the bill allows law-abiding citizens to “stand their ground.”

A person is allowed under the proposal to use deadly force when they perceive a “reasonable threat” of imminent substantial or great bodily harm or death.

Under existing practice, a person has a duty to try and retreat first from a threat when in a public space. That duty is removed by the bill’s language.

Hansen said the distinction between a private residence and the public sphere is important.

 “If you are perceiving a threat … it’s a subjective thing.  … It’s a fear-based response,” said Hansen. “If somebody broke into my house at two in the morning, I would feel justified in responding to protect my family. If I’m in a parking lot at a mall and something happens where I feel threatened, I don’t think I’m justified to start shooting.”

 The bill also limits the ability of peace officers to arbitrarily confiscate fire arms during a state of emergency, and requires Minnesota to recognize permits-to-carry from all other states, not just those states that have permit requirements similar to our own.

The Senate bill’s authors adapted language passed by the House of Representatives last year.

The bill will now return to the House, where legislators there must pass the updated language, possibly on Monday, before it can be sent to the governor’s desk.

“I’m sure it will be very passionate on both sides of the issue. Like many bills we’re dealing with this session, there’s a great deal of passion,” said Hansen.

Sen. Jim Metzen

A list of all legislation authored by Sen. Jim Metzen this biennium is available on the Minnesota Legislature's website.

Rep. Rick Hansen

A list of all legislation authored by Rep. Rick Hansen this biennium is available on the Minnesota Legislature's website.

Andrew Lewandowski March 05, 2012 at 05:59 PM
If I’m in a parking lot at a mall and something happens where I feel threatened, I don’t think I’m justified to start shooting.” Are you kidding me??? If I am in a parking lot and someone is threatening me or my family in a way in which I feel may cause immediate physical harm to myself or them, you are getting shot, no questions asked.
Linda Brown March 06, 2012 at 02:56 AM
Understand, but I hope an innocent bystander is not in the same parking lot and a bullet goes astray. I understand both sides, just uncomfortable with more weapons out there as you always have to take into account kids getting a hold of weapons and harming themselves or others. Would be curious the percentage of guns in homes that actually protect people from bad situations, versus how many of those guns get into the wrong hands, and/or accidents happening. Just a question. Good to hear all views.

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