Should New Hampshire amend the legal use of deadly force?
By: LFDA Editor
In 2011 the New Hampshire Legislature overrode Governor Lynch's veto of was SB 88
, a bill that expanded the legal use of deadly force to include any location where a person might normally be without attempting to first retreat.
SB 88 first passed the Senate on March 30, 2011, and passed the House on June 1, 2011.
Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill on July 13, 2011, saying it would "legalize the inappropriate use of deadly force and jeopardize public safety."
The Senate on Sept. 7, 2011 voted to override the veto 17-7. The vote came after some intense lobbying against the measure, including from police chiefs from throughout the state who sided with Gov. Lynch's assessment that the bill was too dangerous.
The House then followed suit, voting on Sept. 14, 2011 to override on a 251-111 vote.
Supporters of the Castle Doctrine argue that residents have a right to defend their home by any means necessary. Supporters also argue that empowering citizens to defend themselves with lethal force may deter criminals.
Opponents of the Castle Doctrine argue that the law should not permit escalation to lethal force when a life is not already in danger. Many point to the case of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager living in Florida who was shot to death after being pursued by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman. Zimmerman has claimed protection under Florida’s version of the Castle Doctrine law, and will face trial in 2013.
New Hampshire legislation to decriminalize the use of force was inspired in part by the case of Ward Bird, a resident who was arrested and received a mandatory jail sentence after waving a gun at a trespasser on his Moultonborough property.
On Feb. 8, 2012, the Senate referred to interim study a House version of deadly-force expansion, HB 210, that would have expanded the use of deadly force not only to places outside one's home where a person has the right to be, but also to where one "reasonably believed he or she had a right to be." That bill was sponsored by Windham Republican Rep. Richard Okerman.
On March 27, the House narrowly passed (189-185) Concord Democratic Rep. Steven Shurtleff's proposed HB 135. The bill seeks a return to the state's original Castle Doctrine, limiting the use of deadly force to incidents on one's own property. Shurtleff's request is spurred in part by the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. The Union Leader quoted Shurtleff, a retired U.S. marshal, as saying, "The new law says you have a right to use deadly force anyplace you have a lawful place to be, and that would include Hampton Beach or a fair. To me, that just went beyond the pale."