North Dakota lawmakers on Tuesday debated eliminating the state’s “duty to retreat” requirement before using deadly force when not at home or work.
The bill would also do away with the requirement to first ask a person to get off your property before using force. If passed, it would expand the state’s castle doctrine, which allows the use of deadly force in self-defense when a person is faced with a life-threatening situation.
Supporters of the bill say strengthening self-defense laws for law-abiding citizens will save lives, and put North Dakota in line with roughly 30 other states.
“A scenario to make this more clear would be a little mom with two or three little children walking to their vehicle in the grocery store parking lot. It is unreasonable to require her to even consider retreat in that situation. Current law gives the assailant a psychological advantage in these attacks,” bill supporter John Ertelt said.
Those opposed say it could lead to more violence with people feeling less restrained in their use of weapons. McLean and Sheridan County State’s Attorney Ladd Erickson opposes the bill and says it supports the gun industry more than it does safety.
“This isn’t about improving self-defense laws. This is about marketing guns. It sells guns. It’s not about your laws. We focus then, on basic questions: under what circumstances should one North Dakotan be able to kill another North Dakotan? And what circumstances should there be accountability for that? and I’m going to stay on those terms today. Marketing guns is a separate issue,” Erickson said.
The bill passed the House 77 to 16 in February, and will head to the Senate after the committee votes.