If you ever want to see a passionate debate at the State Capitol, just attend a committee hearing having to do with certain gun laws. Such was the case Monday when Rep. Jeff Magrum’s (R – District 28) “Stand Your Ground Law” — officially known as House Bill 1193 — was heard in the House Judiciary Committee.
This isn’t Magrum’s first go at bringing Stand Your Ground to North Dakota. He made the effort during the 2019 legislative session, but the bill was defeated in the House on a vote of 41-49.
In a sense, Stand Your Ground is a relatively simple change to North Dakota’s existing law in relation to the use of deadly force. Yet, it’s extremely controversial. If passed, it would remove what is known in legal and political circles as the “duty to retreat”.
What this means is that, as the law is currently written, deadly force is not justified if “retreat or other conduct involving minimal interference” is possible. In the case of protecting others, deadly force is not permissible by law without first trying to “cause the other individual to retreat”.
There are exceptions to the duty to retreat provision. Among them are an individual in their home, place of work, or from an occupied motor home or travel trailer.
My biggest problem with duty to retreat is the simple reality that its existence gives aggressors the upper hand. And I just don’t think that’s right.
Think of it. In a moment where someone feels threatened — that their life may be in danger — should they honestly have to think first about running away? That hesitation alone might cost them their life.
Furthermore, what sense does it make that duty to retreat matters in the store’s parking lot, but not in a home or place of work? As if the location of the individual being threatened makes a difference. That’s illogical to me.
I get it that situations regarding deadly force can become messy to investigate and deal with— both figuratively and literally. But I see no sense in giving the upper hand to thugs. And for that reason, I hope that Stand Your Ground passes in North Dakota.
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