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March 26. 2013 7:29PM

Repeal of 'stand your ground' law up for vote Wednesday

CONCORD - The New Hampshire House plans to vote today on whether to repeal the controversial "stand your ground" law passed by the Republican-dominated Legislature last year over the veto of former Gov. John Lynch.

Current law - one of the cornerstones of the previous House - led by Republican former speaker Bill O'Brien, allows for the use of deadly force if a victim "reasonably believes" deadly force is about to be used against him. Such force can be used wherever the victim encounters a perceived attacker.

According to the majority of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, which recommended that the bill ought to pass on a 12-6 vote, the bill "affirms that a person is not justified in using deadly force on another if he or she can retreat from the encounter."

The committee majority also explains, "Nothing about the bill prevents one from using deadly force if retreat is not deemed possible," leaving in tact "the castle doctrine."

The bill also does not penalize someone who uses deadly force if he or she is threatened in his own home or on his own property, the majority says.

The minority of the committee said "it would be foolish to change the law every two years without giving current law a chance to demonstrate results."

When the "stand your ground" law was approved last year over Lynch's veto, New Hampshire joined about two dozen states with such a law.

A similar law gained national attention in the Florida case of teenager Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense and said he was being beaten by Martin.

At a public hearing in January, bill sponsor and House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Penacook ,acknowledged New Hampshire has had no such cases during the year the law has been in place, but said he wants to be proactive.

"We do not want someone needlessly killed because of stand-your-ground," he said, noting the murder rate has increased 8 percent in Florida since the law was passed in that state.

House Minority Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, opposes the bill, saying it would impose unclear boundaries for a person who has to decide when it is legal to use deadly force or turn and run.


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