By Brad Bumsted
Thursday, October 14, 2010
HARRISBURG --The Senate on Thursday is expected to give final consideration to legislation that would allow people to defend themselves with lethal force and without retreat in public places if an assailant threatens their lives. By a 41-8 vote
, the Senate on Wednesday approved an amendment called "stand your ground" legislation. The Senate added the provision to a House-passed bill aimed at strengthening Megan's Law, which requires registration of sexual offenders.
Thursday is the Senate's last scheduled session day of the 2009-2010 session. The House, which passed a similar bill by an overwhelming margin last week, would have to agree to the Senate's changes. The House plans to return to session after the Nov. 2 election.
Under current law, people can defend themselves without retreat in their homes. It's called the Castle Doctrine based on the notion that one's home is their castle. But outside the home, people must take steps away from an assailant before shooting in self defense.
The bill would tilt the presumption to law abiding citizens, said Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin County, the amendment's sponsor.
"It's only right we have the ability to protect ourselves and our loved ones," said Sen. Richard Kasunic, D-Fayette County.
But Sen. Lawrence Farnese, D-Philadelphia, called it "shoot first, ask questions later" legislation.
Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, said the legislation would create a "Wild West" atmosphere on Pennsylvania streets.
Proponents said it protects people with permits to carry firearms from zealous prosecutors and from civil lawsuits filed by the people who attacked them.
Alloway said there is a real concern for people who act in self defense from civil litigation because the burden of proof is lower than in a criminal case.
Dozens of members of Firearms Owners Against Crime, many of them from Western Pennsylvania, lobbied senators earlier Wednesday for passage of the Castle Doctrine extension.
After the measure was approved, Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, offered an amendment to close the so-called "Florida loophole." It's aimed at people turned down for permits for carrying concealed weapons in Pennsylvania who go to other states such as Florida and get licenses.
"People with no respect for the law aren't going to get a Florida license," said Sen. John Wozniak, D-Cambria County. "They don't care."
Leach's amendment was defeated 29-20.
Gov. Ed Rendell, former Philadelphia district attorney, has been asked repeatedly at news conferences whether he will sign or veto a Castle Doctrine extension bill. He says it's a complicated issue and he would have to review the bill.