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A lawmaker in the “Live Free or Die” state of New Hampshire is proposing a bill that would severely curb the right of self-defense once people leave their homes, critics charge.
House Bill 135, sponsored by state Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, makes New Hampshire one of seven states debating “Stand Your Ground” laws, which give citizens the right to use deadly force, without retreating first, if they reasonably believe they face an unlawful threat.
New Hampshire statute RSA 627:4 now reads: “A person is not justified in using deadly force on another to defend himself or herself or a third person from deadly force by the other if he or she knows that he or she and the third person can, with complete safety: Retreat from the encounter, except that he or she is not required to retreat if he or she is within his or her dwelling, its curtilage, or anywhere he or she has a right to be, and was not the initial aggressor.”
The bill proposed by Shurtleff would remove the phrase “or anywhere he or she has a right to be.” It also removes the provision that the “act of producing or displaying a weapon shall constitute non-deadly force.”
If the bill passes, simply producing a weapon will constitute deadly force.
Former New Hampshire state Sen. Jim Luther says if the bill passes, the consequence will be simple: People will have to run away.
“It will repeal the ability of an individual to defend [himself] from deadly force in a public setting where they have a right to be. Their only alternative is to run from the attacker,” Luther said.
He added bluntly, “The bill could pass.”
Luther explained that the New Hampshire House swung to the Democrats in the last election, and the Senate only has a one-seat Republican majority.
“The Dems are huge on gun control,” he said.
Second Amendment Sisters Legislative Affairs Director Jenn Coffey said Shurtleff’s political leanings are clear: “He supports gun control.”
Coffey and Luther said that if the bill passes, it’s unclear whether a potential intermediary could incur criminal penalties if he or she intervenes in a violent situation.
Second Amendment analyst and Examiner.com columnist David Codrea said criminal penalties are possible.
“I just don’t know. I imagine that anyone who intervenes in a public event could be setting themselves up for charges,” Codrea said. “The issue would have to be worked out in the courts.”
Coffey said the bill will change the dynamics in an emergency situation.
“I know the average response time for the police department is 10 minutes unless you live where I do and you may have to wait 30 to 45 minutes for the state police if the locals have the night off,” Coffey said.
Under those circumstances, she said, women will be hurt.
“I know that if a woman is faced with a criminal and tries to run, she may die,” Coffey said.
“Stand Your Ground” laws gained national attention last February 2012 as a result of the Sanford, Fla., case in which neighborhood-watch volunteer George Zimmerman shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in what Zimmerman claimed was an act of self-defense.
Following the shooting, Florida Gov. Rick Scott appointed a task force to review the Florida law, and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg went to Washington to lobby for changes in “Stand Your Ground” laws.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that there are nine proposed laws dealing with deadly force or “Stand Your Ground” provisions pending in six other state legislatures.
A Michigan bill introduced in May would repeal a special provision allowing the use of deadly force in self-defense situations.
A bill in North Carolina will remove “Stand Your Ground” language from the state statutes, including acting in defense of another person.
The South Carolina legislature would change the state law and remove “Stand Your Ground” language if the person is in a public place.
Three states that could adopt or add “Stand Your Ground” laws are New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.
The New Jersey Legislature has three bills pending which would allow the use of deadly force in a person’s home. The NCSL says the key provision in the bills is the right to assume safety.
“New Jersey bills articulate the presumption that one reasonably fears imminent peril by an intruder in justifying deadly force,” the NCSL site said.
A bill in the New York Legislature would allow the use of deadly force in defense of life if there is a “presumption of reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.”
The Massachusetts Legislature has referred a bill to the joint committee on the judiciary that will allow residents to use deadly force and be free from immediate arrest if they apply deadly force in situations in which death is imminent.