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Stand Your Ground Law

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Sixteen states have adopted "Stand Your Ground" laws that allow an individual to use deadly force to protect a residence, place of business, vehicle or other property.

The laws that originated with the National Rifle Association and got first life in Florida in 2005 have now spread widely through the South and Midwest.

In the last legislative sessions, 21 states brought the bills up for consideration and 15 states adopted statutes.

This year so far Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington have enacted statutes.

Legal use of deadly force was already case law in Georgia and Washington.

Arizona defeated a bill under opposition from prosecutors and police chiefs who argued the legislation would give gang members carte blanche to kill without fear of legal retribution.

Five states failed to enact laws only because the sessions ended before both chambers of the legislature could complete action.

Law enforcement groups in Missouri made arguments similar to Arizona police without success, claiming a deadly force statute would help gang members avoid prosecution.

The Mississippi Prosecutors Association also opposed the law on grounds that it would be a boon for gang members.

But Mississippi Senate Judiciary Chairman Charlie Ross, who sponsored the bill, said, "This allows lawabiding citizens the right to shoot and defend themselves and the law will not second guess them."

The Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys did not fight the bill because it had overwhelming support by legislators in both parties, said Meresa Fawns, the organization's executive director.

The Florida law, which served as a model, authorizes lethal force against intruders entering homes or vehicles on grounds that the gun user feared a "forcible felony."

The law states that an individual in self-defense "has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force."

Florida also forbids the arrest, detention or prosecution of the shooters covered by the law, and it prohibits civil suits against them.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attributed the 2005 decline in the state's crime rate to the lowest level since 1971 partly to legally arming homeowners, toughening sentences and increasing funds for law enforcement.

Florida already has several incidents involving a cab driver who killed a drunken passenger, a prostitute who shot to death a customer and a retired police officer who wounded a neighbor in a dispute over garbage.

The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence said there also appear to be court cases in Florida involving gang killings that the perpetrators claimed to be justified for safety reasons.

Of 15 self-defense incidents the center has identified, 13 of the alleged assailants were unarmed.

In Louisiana, the new law would presume a shooter using deadly force acted "reasonably" if evidence shows an entry was unlawful and forced.

Louisiana earlier enacted a companion law that allows the legal use of force to ward off a violent attack in a home, business or vehicle.

Besides approval of self-defense legislation in 15 states, Kansas, Kentucky and Minnesota legalized the carrying of concealed weapons. Kansas blocked a bill to prohibit gun ownership by a mentally ill person.

Utah and Wyoming defeated bills to authorize concealed weapon laws similar to those in effect in 24 states.

Copyright Washington Crime News Service Aug 11, 2006

Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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