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House panel endorses repeal of N.H.’s 2011 ‘stand your ground’ law

Legislation to repeal New Hampshire’s “stand your ground” self-defense law was endorsed yesterday by the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.

The committee voted, 12-6, to recommend the full House pass an amended version of the bill introduced this year by Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Penacook Democrat. Two Republicans, Rep. Dennis Fields of Sanbornton and Rep. Steve Vaillancourt of Manchester, joined 10 Democrats to support the bill, while all six “no” votes came from Republicans.

The repeal bill has aroused loud opposition from gun-rights activists and others, and hundreds turned out for a five-hour public hearing in January. But Fields said many of the messages he’s received are from out-of-staters.

“They don’t live here. They can do what they want in their state,” he said. “I’m going to do what’s best for New Hampshire.”

In 2011, the then-Republican-led Legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact a law that expanded the right to use deadly force in self-defense to apply anywhere a person can legally be. Previously, people were obligated to “retreat from the encounter” if they knew they could do so with “complete safety,” except in their homes.

Similar stand your ground laws are on the books in at least 21 states, including New Hampshire, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

It’s one of a number of laws passed during the last two years that are now being targeted for repeal by Democrats who retook a majority in the House in last November’s election. Republicans retain a 13-11 majority in the Senate.

The House committee yesterday did modify the bill introduced by Shurtleff. At Vaillancourt’s recommendation, the panel removed a section dealing with civil immunity and a second section that would have repealed language specifying that displaying a weapon is “non-deadly force,” not deadly force.

That amendment, Vaillancourt said, “strikes out two sections of the bill. So, all those who say I’m going against people with guns: I have accomplished two-thirds of what you all wanted to do.”

The core of the bill – limiting the legitimate use of deadly force without any need to retreat to someone who is in or around their home – remained intact.

Several Democratic representatives said yesterday that the bill has nothing to do with gun rights, and is a public safety measure that still allows people to defend themselves.

“There’s dismay when I look at states that have adopted stand your ground laws, and what I see this becoming is a license to shoot first and ask questions later,” said Rep. Renny Cushing, a Hampton Democrat.

But Rep. Moe Villeneuve, a Bedford Republican, said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized a right of self-defense.

“What we’re doing is substituting a law that’s unconstitutional for a law that is constitutional, the one that exists right now,” Villeneuve said.

And Rep. Kyle Tasker, a Nottingham Republican, said the Legislature shouldn’t be in the business of repealing laws until it sees how they work out.

“We shouldn’t be playing Ping-Pong with people’s rights every two years. . . . We’ve got to give it a little bit of time so we can have some results. We don’t have any results. We have anecdotes, we have other states telling us what they think,” Tasker said.

He added, “If one life is saved, that’s not good enough, if people’s rights mean anything.”

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

Legacy Comments6

Bravo for this first step in repealing "Stand Your Ground"-- an ALEC approved law passed by those who would turn this state into an armed camp. This law should more accurately have been labelled the "Shoot First Anywhere, Ask Questions Later" law. One step at a time, libertarians and the far right are determined to undo civilized and sensible behavior having to do with the common good and the public square, and turn the state and the nation into an armed camp. If arming every citizen really made people safer, why were towns in the wild west among the first to adopt gun control measures? Why do law enforcement agencies support repeal? The right continues to knowingly misread the 2nd Amendment, regarding it as an absolute right--which it is not, just as the 1st is not absolute. Some would have there be no limits on either firepower or the setting in which to possess a weapon. In the long run, laws like 'Stand Your Ground' are a recipe for a Somalia-like Libertopia: the only rules being 'every man for himself' and 'might makes right'.

This what you get when you elect democrats....

Publius - then why hobble the law?

Because progressives want to hobble any law that attacks the real problem and identifies the real villains. In their narrow minds, people have to be understood, they are a product of societal failure and lack of educational other words, they like to make excuses for the dregs of society. If someone comes on your land or invades your home uninvited, I am sure that progressives would ask why you did not negotiate rather than employ self defense.

Saying that innocent victims are helpless or unable to protect themselves without stand-your-ground is simply wrong. Using deadly force in self-defense has always been recognized in law. What is different under stand-your-ground, and what makes it troubling, is that once someone claims he or she was standing his/her ground, it is up to the other party - the one who is now dead - to prove that he was doing nothing wrong.

Unbelievable., Especially after the avalanche of support during those recent hearings, for the rights of a law-abiding citizen, when forced to defend themselves and their family. How did the fallacious notion that a law-abiding citizen with a weapon is somehow more dangerous than criminals, rapists and murderers, get any traction at all? Who is trying to sell you that idea? Why would they want you to begin to believe an assumption that is baseless and makes no common sense? In any event criminals and the criminally insane will pay no attention to this law. Those with propensity for violent crime have never paid any attention to laws like this for hundreds of years! Although I would love to see it, why would anybody assume that this is changed? Metaphorically the statistics illustrate people’s greatest fears include sharks and meteors. However, the far greater statistical causes of death are heart disease and cancer. So if you look around to consider what might represent a realistic threat to you or your family: I highly recommend that you include a large dose of common sense in the calculation.

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