Legislation that expands Pennsylvania’s self defense law, the Castle Doctrine, to eliminate the requirement that victims retreat from their attackers before using lethal force is before Governor Tom Corbett. The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.
The legislation pitted gun-control advocates and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) against the NRA and the Republican-controlled House and Senate. A Republican House member from Allegheny County, Rick Saccone, wrote in a recent editorial that Pennsylvania now has a weak law that favors attackers over victims.
“Gun-control advocates like to falsely assert that citizens already enjoy the ability to use deadly force in their homes and ridiculously insist that people should surrender their homes to an intruder if it might save a life,” Saccone wrote. “Unfortunately, these advocates appear more worried about the life of the attacker than the victim.”
Philadelphia-based CeaseFirePA insists that citizens already have the right to use lethal force in their homes without first seeking a place to retreat.
“This really is a solution in search of a problem,” said Max Nacheman, Executive Director of the group. “In Florida, crime has gone up in the five years since the same expansion was passed. We can’t be sure of a direct correlation between the law and the increase in crimes but we know that it’s made it tougher on the district attorneys there to prosecute cases.”
The Executive Director of the PDAA, Richard Long, said that they had no direct evidence that the Castle Doctrine changes in other states – Montana, Ohio, and Texas recently joined Florida in toughening their laws --- have increased violent crime, but said that anecdotal information shows it will make some cases harder to prosecute.
“You’re starting to bring in cases like disputes between neighbors that lead to someone getting killed. They can more easily claim self defense if they feel threatened,” Long said.
The PDAA did soften its opposition to the bill when amendments were attached so the law would not apply in cases involving the commission of crime or the involvement of a law enforcement officer.