Self Defense Gun Use and the Reasonable Person Standard
Ashley Varner NRA spokeswoman
If Jacob Trucan’s life is threatened, he thinks he could pull the trigger.
“I believe in protecting yourself, especially in cases of rape or something like that,” said the 15-year holder of a concealed-weapon permit. “A woman or a guy should have the right to protect themselves.”
Turcan, an avid hunter and shooter, supports a law recently proposed by a Lycoming County Republican that could change the idea of self-defense. Pennsylvania law currently requires victims to retreat if faced with threat or attack in public, but allows people to use deadly force against intruders in their homes.
The passage of the so-called stand-your-ground bill would allow holders of concealed-weapon permits to shoot someone in public if they are threatened with death, rape, kidnapping or serious injury.
The bill sponsored by state Rep. Steven W. Cappelli, R-Lycoming, mirrors laws passed in 15 other states beginning in October 2005 in Florida and most recently in Michigan. Cappelli’s proposal is different than those in other states. Here the exception is only extended to the state’s concealed weapon permit holders.
Chad Ramsey, field director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, believes the bill will encourage thoughtless shootings. “This will embolden somebody who might not normally take out their gun. Knowing they have the legal protection, they will be more likely to shoot.”
National Rifle Association lobbyists pushed for the legislation in states such as Pennsylvania, where the duty-of-flight laws are on the books. . . . .
The above article is much more accurate than a very recent piece in the New York Times.
I had sent the following letter into the NY Times:
Dear Letters Editor:
Your article on state laws that do not require that people retreat before they are able to defend themselves was extremely misleading and left out one important aspect of these laws (Adam Liptak, "15 States Expand Right to Shoot in Self-Defense," August 7). There was perviously and still is a reasonable person standard. People can only use their gun defensively if they are threatened and they use force that is commensurate with the threat that they face.
The previous law only required that one retreat if you could do so in complete safety (not simply "must retreat if possible"). Given that, it appears that all three of the examples provided in the article are not useful for illustrating a defensive action that was illegal previously that are somehow legal now.
John R. Lott, Jr.
The Dean's Visiting Professor
State University of New York at Binghamton
(Given that they just published another letter by me, I really can't complain that the NY Times did not publish this letter.) The only point that I would have clarified more in the Times Leader piece is the reasonable person standard. It is not simply up to the victim to decide if they are in danger.