The Democrat-controlled New Hampshire House of Representatives voted narrowly Wednesday to approve legislation that would repeal the state's Stand Your Ground law.
The bill's passage sets the stage for debate in the Republican-controlled state Senate over the future of a law first approved in 2011. Stand Your Ground laws are designed to allow a person to shoot a potential attacker if they believe they are in danger and cannot flee.
Passage followed intense debate, with opponents saying the bill would put New Hampshire's women in danger, and bring political retaliation. Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is expected to sign the bill if it passes the Senate.
“I always thought the definition of good legislation was one that solved a problem," state Rep. Jane Cormier (R-Alton) said in the debate. "I didn’t know New Hampshire turned into the wild west. This is a bad bill. It doesn’t answer any crisis in this state. It infringes on our Second Amendment rights.”
Cormier and state Rep. Lenette Peterson (R-Merrimack) told House members that repealing Stand Your Ground would endanger women by depriving them of the right to carry a gun to protect themselves. Cormier told a story of how she did not have time to run from muggers on a New York City subway, while Peterson relayed a story about the need to defend herself when she was mugged at the age of 15.
Peterson told House members that her husband has given her guns as anniversary and Christmas presents, to ensure she can defend herself and her daughters if needed. She and her daughters like to go on backpacking trips for a few days, and women need to be more vigilant than men in the wilderness to ward off potential attackers. Unlike men, women cannot go into the woods alone, Peterson said, and if she ran from an attacker it would separate her from her children.
“HB 135 is declaring open season on women in New Hampshire," Peterson said.
Cormier noted that some women do not have the ability to run from an attacker. “I will not become a victim," she said. "I ask that you do not vote to make me a victim.”
Opponents attempted to amend the bill so the state could be held liable if a person runs from an attacker, and then is wounded or killed. The provisions of the amendment, which was defeated, would have required the state to cover lost income for someone killed or wounded.
Supporters of the repeal stressed that people would still be able to act in self-defense if attacked, and that the bill does not impact the "castle doctrine," which covers self-protection in a home.
House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff (D-Pennacook) stressed that opponents have spread "misinformation and disinformation" in an attempt to kill the bill. The repeal was needed, he said, because of the potential for the law to free legitimate murderers who use it as a defense.
He noted that a repeal was needed because of the potential for the law to be used as a defense for legitimate murderers.
"What we are seeing with this bill is a large black cloud of misinformation and disinformation meant to confuse our citizens and you, the members of our General Court," Shurtleff said.
State Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton) argued that the repeal could actually be used against someone who shoots an attacker if prosecutors argue that there was an opportunity to escape.
“What do you give up if you end up in jail if you cannot run away and the county prosecutor asserts that you could have run away," he said.