Proposed changes to personal protection are in the worksWORTHINGTON — As a resident of southwest Minnesota and the upper Midwest, I consider this one of the safest places to live in North America. Most other residents of this area would agree. What I’m not is complacent about the fact that danger is present to some degree everywhere we go. There are no doubt individuals who would do you or your family harm and think nothing of it. We just don’t see it around here very much.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — As a resident of southwest Minnesota and the upper Midwest, I consider this one of the safest places to live in North America. Most other residents of this area would agree. What I’m not is complacent about the fact that danger is present to some degree everywhere we go. There are no doubt individuals who would do you or your family harm and think nothing of it. We just don’t see it around here very much.
Just what would you do if you were faced with a situation where you needed to protect you or your family from an individual intent on depriving you of your life? This is one of those circumstances you hope you will never find yourself in, but what if you do?
Under current state law, there are four specific issues or pillars that have to be present before you can legally use deadly force to protect you or others. The first is you have to feel you or others are in eminent danger of great bodily injury or death. A little child charging an adult with a plastic waffle bat would not quality, but a 300-pound male charging a 125-pound lady with a big stick or club could. The fear is real in the person’s mind.
The second pillar is you have to be a reluctant participant. You cannot see a rukus down the street and run over to enter the fray. If a person, other than yourself, is the one being attacked, then they might be the reluctant participant and this can meet this criteria. You cannot instigate the confrontation and be a reluctant participant.
The third pillar that has to be present to use deadly force to protect yourself or others is that you have to have no meaningful means of retreat. If you see yourself in a life-threatening situation and have the ability to run away or otherwise escape, you are required by current law to do so. This requirement could mean driving away in a car as the person intent on doing you harm is running in your direction.
The last pillar required in the use of deadly force is that the level of force you used was the only one that would work. Deadly force was the only option, no lesser force would do. This means that all other forms of defense — short of deadly force — would need to be used if it could be successful in thwarting the attack and that deadly force was only used as the absolute last resort.
These rules have governed the use of deadly force in Minnesota for years. A bill recently passed in the Minnesota Senate makes a change to these rules for the first time in years. This change removes the requirement to retreat. Many other states already have the provision, called the “stand your ground rule.” It says if you are in a place you are legally permitted to be in, you do not have to run if you are threatened with violence. You might very well still do so, but you are not required. This provides Minnesota residents with a better ability to protect their person and family.
The bill contains several other provisions I think are equally important. The bill provides protection from prosecution if deadly force was warranted. I have a hard time with a homeowner protecting his family from an armed intruder and, after having done so, is charged with a gun crime. The third-time felon criminal is out on the street in a few days and the homeowner gets five to 10 years for discharging his gun to protect his family. In many cases, the hardened criminal seems better protected by the law than the victims they prey upon. This change is a move in the right direction for law-abiding citizens. Criminals should serious consider what might happen to them if they attack an innocent person.
The next two items are related and deal with Minnesota law regarding carrying a concealed firearm on your person for protection. Minnesota’s permit to carry is currently accepted in 13 other states. This bill, if passed into law, would require all legal permit holders from other states to have their permit honored in Minnesota. Secondly, it would require the proper regulating agency in Minnesota to actively pursue these agreements with other states that would then allow Minnesota permit holders to carry the personal protection while traveling in those states. There are many states where Minnesota permit holders cannot carry mainly because the state has not initiated the actions allowing them to do so. This forces the state to act. Statics show permit holders have a much, much lower rate of difficulty with the law than the general population.
The last policy related to this bill is that it makes it illegal for law enforcement agencies to confiscate guns from law abiding citizens as a result of a natural disaster. When hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, law abiding citizens’ guns were taken from them, leaving them defenseless to protect themselves from the gangs of looters and criminals that operated openly and undeterred for many weeks, while law enforcement was helpless to defend them. Many of those guns were never returned. This rectifies this issue in Minnesota.
I hope I am never challenged by anyone whose intention is to deprive me or my family of their life, but it is important to know what you can or cannot do if a life-threatening situation arises. The new rules in Minnesota, if they become law, will be more in line with the regulations that already exist in many other states and have for many years. These will not have a giant impact in what you read in the paper over the next 10 years, but they will help to make sure any negative outcome of a crime rests with the criminal and not with the law-abiding citizen. The bill is being moved this week and its outcome might very well be decided by the time you read this. I will give you an update on this bill next week.
Scott Rall is the Daily Globe’s outdoors columnist. His column can also be read weekly at www.dglobe.com.