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Bill To Expand Gun Laws Passes House Committee

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(credit: Jupiter Images)

(credit: Jupiter Images)

(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – A House committee approved a major change in Minnesota’s self-defense laws Thursday.

It’s a bill to expand the use of deadly force if you feel threatened, but some call it a “recipe for disaster.”

If you are for it, you call this law “Stand Your Ground in Self Defense.” If you are against it, it’s called “Shoot First and Ask Questions Later.”

Either way, it’s a monumental change in the state’s gun laws.

Minnesota law formerly allowed you to shoot an intruder only if you are threatened with bodily harm. But this bill, which passed by a 10-7 vote, says any intruder entering your home intends to cause harm, and allows you to shoot first in self-defense.

“Why should they have to wait until somebody picks up their TV in the commission of a felony, or comes  walks across the floor and grabs the woman or child before they take action?” asked Rep. Tony Cornish.

Opponents to the bill, including police groups, say it opens the possibility to more shootings, and killings, of cops. Others call it “decriminalizing murder,” especially in the cases of mistaken identity, drunks, road rage or teenage pranks.

“Do we really want the law to presume that the homeowner should have the right to shoot and kill an unarmed teenager who has entered the garage to steal a bicycle or other personal property?” posed Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom.

“We don’t think testy neighbors, drunk people or kids playing pranks deserve to die,” argued Heather Martens, the executive director of Citizens for a Safer Minnesota.

The bill’s sponsors said concerns about the bill are overblown. Pointing to unfounded predictions of shooting and killings 10 years ago after Minnesota passed a conceal-and-carry law, the bill approved after one lawmaker’s personal take on a man’s home, and his castle.

“This bill sends a message to criminals and I believe it will act as a deterrent. Don’t break into a house, and you won’t get hurt. It’s a novel idea,” said Rep. John Kriesel.

This particular bill has been up several times in the past, but it never got anywhere while Democrats controlled the Senate and the House. It has a much better chance this year with Republicans running the committees.

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