'Stand Your Ground' Expected To Stay N.H. Law

Feb 14, 2013

Credit NHPR

As the debate over gun policy occupies center stage in Washington, N.H. lawmakers are also considering several bills that relate to guns.

The most high-profile is a repeal of N.H.’s year old law eliminating the requirement that people attempt retreat before using deadly force in self-defense outside the home. So-called stand your ground laws have been debated in Concord for much of the last decade.

"SB 318 would allow any shopper to shoot and kill a thief who grabbed and tugged at a shoppers purse, no matter how many shoppers may be in harm’s way."

That was former Governor John Lynch vetoing a bill backed by the GOP-led legislature in 2006. Here’s former GOP state rep David Welch, nearly five years later, moments before Republicans voted to override a 2011 Lynch veto of a narrower version of stand your ground.

"Bloodshed in the streets will not occur. States that have passed similar legislation have not experienced blood baths either."

Variants of stand your ground now exist in 26 states. And while backers insist they deter violence, there is research to suggest otherwise.

"The punch line seems to be when you lower the cost of using deadly force, you end up getting more of it."

Mark Hoekstra, an economist at Texas A&M found murder rates in states with stand your ground law rose about 8 percent within three years of the law’s passage.

By that calculus, he says NH could expect one or two additional homicides annually. But so far, not even stand your grounds staunchest opponents have cited any local crimes, homicide on down, linked to NH’s law.

The lawmaker leading the effort to repeal stand your ground, House majority leader Steve Shurtleff, a former US Marshall, says he’s out to avert these incident before they occur.

"We’ve seen problems in other states and all this bill would do would bring NH back to the law for the previous 40 years. It bring self defense back to what it is, self-defense."

But backers of current law see something far less benign.

During the repeal’s hearing in the house, they testified by the dozen that forcing people to try to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker is simply wrong.

"Supporting this bill is telling a mother or a father that they cannot defend their children."

Representative Laurie Sanborn of Bedford, is the House Republican policy leader.


"It's telling the law abiding people of this state that they do not deserve the right of personal defense from those who would do them harm."

Debates over repealing stand your ground are now afoot in a half dozen states. While the particulars vary, Laura Cutiletta of the California-based Law center to Prevent Gun Violence notes they do share a common partisan denominator.

"Right now I don’t see any bills introduced by Republicans that would turn back these laws, so at the moment it’s still begin led by the democrats."

But it will take a few Republicans for NH’s repeal of stand your ground to succeed.


Democrats alone can get the bill through the house, but at least two GOP senators will need to break ranks with leadership for the bill to survive in that chamber. 


According to Senate Majority leader Jeb Bradley, that’s a long shot.

"When it gets to the Senate we will listen to the arguments again, but I expect we will embrace again the right of people to defend their lives, their liberties and their loved ones."

Backers of the repeal, meanwhile, and they include state law enforcement, from the attorney general’s office to the chiefs of police association are expected to keep making their case as long as the bill survives.