GOP Set to Expand 'Castle Doctrine' in New Hampshire
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
Republicans in the New Hampshire Senate ignored pleas from police officers, sheriffs, the state attorney general and other law enforcement officials on Wednesday (September 7), overriding a gubernatorial veto of legislation that would greatly expand residents' right to use deadly force in self-defense.
The override effort now moves to the GOP-held New Hampshire House, where party leaders expect it to succeed.
The legislation is a broadened version of the so-called "Castle Doctrine," which many states have adopted and typically allows residents to use deadly force if they are confronted by intruders in their own homes. In New Hampshire, however, the legislation in dispute gives residents the right to use deadly force wherever they "have a right to be," according to the Concord Monitor . Under current law, the paper notes, "citizens must attempt to retreat from the threat of deadly force if it is safe to do so unless they are threatened in their home or surrounding area."
The significant expansion of self-defense rights in the new legislation is a major concern for New Hampshire law enforcement officials, who have appeared alongside Democratic Governor John Lynch in recent weeks to urge lawmakers to let Lynch's veto stand. Police officers, sheriffs, the state attorney general and others believe the legislation is unnecessary, would lead to increased crime and could complicate prosecutions by potentially giving criminals a chance to make self-protection claims.
By a vote of 17-to-7, however, New Hampshire senators disagreed, casting the measure as a sensible bill that would improve public safety, not diminish it. Leaders in the state House of Representatives appeared ready to follow. "Taking away the right of armed self-defense from law-abiding citizens does nothing to reduce crime," D.J. Bettencourt, the House majority leader, said in a statement after the Senate's vote.