“Stand your ground” bill passes Alaska House

Representative Mark Neuman speaks on why he put his name on the bill.
Representative Mark Neuman speaks on why he put his name on the bill. (Image courtesy Gavel Alaska)

The Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a “Stand Your Ground” bill on a 33-5 vote.

House Bill 24 expands what’s known as the “castle doctrine,” which allows people to use deadly force to protect their homes and businesses from intruders. The controversial legislation extends that protection to anyplace a person lawfully has a right to be.

Bill sponsor, Big Lake Republican Representative Mark Neuman, says it simply clarifies that self-defense is not a crime.

“If you’re in your home, and an invader comes into your home, are you supposed to if we had a duty to retreat maybe go hide in your bedroom? That’s not what it says,” said Neuman during debate on the House floor. “It says you have the right to defend yourself in your home. Why shouldn’t you carry those rights anywhere you have a right to be? And make that clear.”

Neuman has introduced versions of the bill in previous legislatures, but they died in the Senate after passing the House.

Similar laws are already on the books in about two dozen states nationwide. They came under scrutiny last year after unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in a suburban Florida community. Initially Zimmerman was not charged for the shooting, because of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

Opponents of House Bill 24 cited concerns over whether it would limit the ability of prosecutors to try gang shootings, particularly in Anchorage. Andy Josephson, a Democrat who represents the Anchorage University District, also brought up potential public safety concerns.

“I’m worried about more bullets being shot, and the innocent people in the background of the shooting scene – in a mall for example on a Christmas Eve day, who are just shopping,” Josephson said. “And I don’t think we’ve covered thoroughly enough what the liability might be to them.”

Josephson was one of four Democrats who voted against the bill. The only Republican to oppose it was Lindsey Holmes, a former Democrat who represents West Anchorage and switched parties just before the start of this year’s session.

The Alaska Department of Law had concerns over the 2010 “Stand Your Ground” bill, with then-Attorney General Dan Sullivan writing that it would “encourage the needless taking of human life.”

Current Attorney General Michael Geraghty reversed course last year, and has said he supports the current version of the bill.

Anchorage Republican Charisse Millett served notice of reconsideration on HB 24 after Wednesday’s vote. That means it will be back for another vote, likely later this week.

If it still passes the House as expected, HB 24 would need to pass the Alaska Senate before it can go to Governor Sean Parnell for his signature.

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