Tuesday, January 31, 2006
On this day:

Deadly force bill to be considered in House next week

The Alabama legislature is considering a bill, modeled after Florida's recently-passed "Stand Your Ground" law, which would "expand the circumstances under which a person could use deadly force in self-defense or defense of other persons."

I am an NRA member and a gun owner, and I think that people should be entitled to defend themselves and to "stand their ground" without fear of prosecution. However, it seems that there some very legitimate questions and concerns about this bill that need to be addressed. For instance, it says that:

"A person may use deadly physical force, and is legally presumed to be justified in using deadly physical force in self-defense or the defense of another person if the person reasonably believes that another person is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcefully entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle...and provided that the person using the deadly physical force knows or has reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act is occurring or has occurred."
It goes on to say that:

"A person is not required to retreat if he or she is defending against an unlawful and forcible entry or an unlawful and forcible act...[as stated in the paragraph above.]"

Lots of hypothetical situations could come out of that, huh? Some of them are pretty plausible, too.

So, how far do we want to go, and does this bill go too far? Relaxing the rules under which homicide is justified is not a routine matter; it is a decision that should be made cautiously and deliberately. That pressing need for thoughtful deliberation makes it all the more unfortunate that the issue of race has entered into the picture as an unnecessary and irrelevant distraction. Although several members of the House black caucus support the proposal, others have threatened a filibuster because they say that it would victimize minorities.

I don't know enough to say whether this bill is a good idea or not, but if there's one fundamental principle upon which conservatives can agree, it is this: to do no harm. If legislators can't convince themselves that the deadly force bill measures up to that simple rule, they should save it for another day.