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‘Stand your ground’ measure awaits Rendell’s decision

HARRISBURG — Gov. Ed Rendell will decide whether Pennsylvania law will be changed to allow people to defend themselves with lethal force outside their homes without retreat.

The state House yesterday sent a Senate-passed bill to Rendell’s desk termed “stand your ground” legislation. The House approved it by a 161 to 35 margin.

The bill enables people to use deadly force — when their lives are threatened by an attacker — without taking steps away from the encounter. Currently, the law allows those protections within a home. The legislation would apply that to public places.

“We urge and expect Gov. Rendell — as the former two-term district attorney of Philadelphia — to stand with the broad bipartisan consensus of Pennsylvania prosecutors and law enforcement leaders and oppose this terrible bill and to veto it,” said Joe Grace, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun-control group.

Rendell has said he must review the bill before deciding whether to sign or veto it.

“He will review the bill, then decide,” his spokesman Gary Tuma said last night.

Critics contend the bill amounts to a law allowing people to “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Gun groups, many of them from Western Pennsylvania, pushed for the bill’s passage during the past five years.

“Law-abiding citizens have a right to protect their property and their families,” said Rep. Michele Brooks, R-Mercer County. “We have to send a strong message to criminals that ‘if you break the law, we are going to defend ourselves.’ ”

Proponents said the bill would protect people with permits to carry firearms from civil lawsuits filed by the people who attack them.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association opposes the bill.

But Rep. Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery County, a former police officer, noted that the Fraternal Order of Police and Pennsylvania State Troopers Association did not oppose the bill.

Grace said the Legislature “still does the gun lobby’s bidding by passing a bill that will promote more situations involving guns and gun violence in Pennsylvania. It’s a shameful act.”


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