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House passes Stand Your Ground bill

April 06, 2006
By: Jason Rosenbaum
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Four out of five legislators who represent Boone County voted Thursday for a bill that supporters say will shield people who use deadly force in self-defense from prosecution.

"I think every citizen in the United States and Missouri should have the right to defend themselves," said Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia.

Besides granting immunity from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits from anyone who uses lawful deadly force in self-defense, the bill also legitimizes deadly force if somebody "takes actions that create a reasonable fear of the imminent use of unlawful force in another person and who unlawfully enters or remains in vehicles, residences, or buildings used for lodging."

"This bill is about personal protection: protection of crime victims and the ability of a person to defend herself or himself if their life or their home is treatened," said House Minority Leader Jeff Harris, D-Columbia.

Harris, along with Robb, Rep. Steve Hobbs, D-Mexico, Rep. Ed Robb and Rep. Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence voted for legislation sponsored by Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin. The bill passed the House 132-23.

Shoemyer said if there is one place in Missouri which is considered more sacred than anywhere else, it's the home. And people like him live in rural areas far away from help might have to rely on themselves in the worst case scenario.

"That's my agriarian independence that comes through in me," he added.

"Sometimes there's a lot of things you'd like to have somebody take care of your for.

Rep. Judy Baker, D-Columbia, voted against the bill, saying the current laws on the books already protect a person from being prosecuted for somebody entering their home.

"If a person is coming into my home, I already in the state of Missouri have the right to defend myself," Baker said. "And the law is very explicit about that."

Baker said she doubted whether criminal behavior will change because of this proposed law. She also said the legislation is not well-written and could be interpreted loosely.

"It has some interpretations of it that I think could be use actually for the criminal defense of somebody who intentionally shot someone coming through their house," Baker said. "I think it leaves some openings and some loopholes for someone who might lie in wait for someone they know might be coming through their house."

But Robb said under the current law there is doubt to how much force you can use.

"After we pass this law," he said. "That doubt is removed."

Harris agreed, and said that the bill is not redundant.

"I think this was necessary to ensure that a person who's home is being broken into, for example, doesn't have to retreat in the face of that kind of danger," Harris said.

The bill now makes its way to the Missouri Senate.