Rendell vetoes self-defense bill for outside home

By MARC LEVY

Associated Press

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – Gov. Ed Rendell on Saturday vetoed a bill
that he feared would escalate violent acts by expanding a person’s
rights in Pennsylvania to use deadly force in self-defense, even
when safe retreat is possible, if feeling threatened outside their
home.

Rendell criticized the bill as a dangerous solution to a
nonexistent problem that would encourage a “shoot first, ask
questions later” mentality.

“I do not believe that in a civilized society we should
encourage violent and deadly confrontation when the victim can
safely protect themselves” through retreat, Rendell wrote in his
veto message released Saturday. “As keepers of the public trust,
we have the solemn duty to protect our citizenry, not put them in
harm’s way, and to protect the sanctity of human life.”

The measure broadening Pennsylvania’s so-called Castle Doctrine
also would have offered immunity against civil lawsuits to people
who could show that they acted within the law’s guidelines.

Under current law in Pennsylvania, the use of deadly force in
self-defense is not justifiable when safe retreat is possible,
unless a person is attacked in their home or workplace, Rendell
said.

The vetoed bill said, in part, that “no person should be
required to surrender his or her personal safety to a criminal, nor
should a person be required to needlessly retreat in the face of
intrusion or attack outside the person’s home or vehicle.”

A number of states have Castle Doctrine laws, although most
limit the use of deadly force in self-defense to the home or
private property.

Rep. Scott Perry, R-York, who sponsored a similar Castle
Doctrine bill, on Wednesday criticized Rendell’s veto as a vote
against a majority of Pennsylvanians “who want to be able to
defend themselves” and “completely out of step with citizens of
the commonwealth that he swore to represent.”

However, Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico said in a
statement Saturday that it’s rare that a prosecutor targets people
who were legitimately defending themselves. Conversely, prosecutors
in states with wider self-defense protections are finding that
criminals are exploiting it by making bogus self-defense claims,
Marsico said.

The term-limited Democratic governor, who leaves office Jan. 18,
took action on the bill Saturday, the last possible day he could
have vetoed it before it was to become law automatically.

The timing of Rendell’s veto left just a tiny opening for
lawmakers to reconvene to try to override the veto, which would
require a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber before the
current Legislature expires at midnight Tuesday. But House Speaker
Keith McCall, D-Carbon, has no plans to recall the chamber’s
members, a spokesman said Saturday.

The new Legislature is seated in January and the bill can be
reintroduced then.

It passed the Senate, 45-4, in October and the House, 161-35,
earlier this month. Republican Gov.-elect Tom Corbett,
Pennsylvania’s attorney general, has said he would have signed
it.

The bill was supported by the National Rifle Association but
opposed by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.

Rendell was conflicted about his veto, because the state Senate
had packaged the self-defense elements into a wider bill with
separate provisions to update the registration requirements of
homeless and out-of-state sexual offenders, which he supported. But
the maneuver, he said, likely violates a constitutional prohibition
against legislation that incorporates more than one subject.

Associated Press writer Ashley Thomas contributed to this
report from Philadelphia.

 

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