Police, prosecutors oppose bill easing "deadly force" requirements

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Sen. Hoffman, R-Vergas, sponsors the Senate version of the controversial bill.
At a news conference yesterday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Minnesota prosecutors "unanimously oppose" a bill that would broaden the rights of property owners to use deadly force.

The Minneapolis and St. Paul police chiefs along with representatives of chiefs from around the state joined Freeman in expressing their opposition to the bill.

The Minnesota Defense of Dwelling and Person Act broadens the legal justification for using deadly force. Currently, shooters have an obligation to demonstrate that they fired as a last resort, and that their decision to shoot is one other reasonable people would make. The Minnesota Defense of Dwelling and Person Act weakens that standard, creating a presumption that anyone who shoots believes they're in great danger.

The bill would also broaden the definition of a "dwelling" to include vehicles, boats, and hotel rooms. So for example, if a stranger walked up to your car while you're stopped at a stoplight and they try to open the door, the Defense Act would presumably allow you to lawfully shoot and kill them. Under current law, a vehicle isn't considered a dwelling and even when at home, there has to be good reason to believe your well-being is in jeopardy before you can lawfully shoot.

County attorneys are concerned that easing the deadly force requirement -- a top national priority of the National Rifle Association -- will make it more difficult to prosecute gun violence cases. And police are worried that expanding the set of circumstances where people can legally use deadly force will make their job more dangerous.
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Rep. Cornish, R-Good Thunder, got the bill through the House last session.

Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, and Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, are the bill's sponsors. The House approved a similar bill last session, and a Senate committee approved the bill last week. The full Senate will debate the bill next Monday or Tuesday.

According to the Star Tribune, neither Cornish nor Hoffman cited specific problems with the current self-defense law. They said the changes are needed to protect and extend gun owners' rights. Hoffman said that "In towns and cities where there are people that legally own and use their guns, crime goes down." But with violent crime in the state falling drastically over the last half-decade, it seems that the deadly force bill, like other bills recently proposed by the GOP, may be a solution in search of a problem.

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