Dayton vetoes deadly force bill

Last night, as expected, Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the controversial Defense of Dwelling and Person Act, a bill that would've broadened the rights of property owners to use deadly force.

Citing the fact that the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, Minnesota Sheriffs' Association, and Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association all had spoken out against the measure, Dayton wrote in his veto letter: "When [law enforcement] strongly oppose a measure, because they believe it will increase the dangers to them in the performance of their duties, I cannot support it."

In response, Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas and chief author of the Senate bill, issued a statement saying, "Unfortunately, with the Governor's veto, violent criminals will continue to have the advantage over law-abiding citizens."

Under current law, citizens who use deadly force have an obligation to demonstrate that they fired as a last resort, and that their decision to shoot is one other reasonable people would make. The Defense Act would've weakened that standard, creating a presumption that anyone who shoots believes they're in great danger.

The bill also would've broadened the definition of a "dwelling" to include vehicles, boats, and hotel rooms. So for example, if a stranger walked up to your car while you're stopped at a stoplight and they try to open the door, the Defense Act would allow you to lawfully shoot and kill them. Under current law, a vehicle isn't considered a dwelling and even when at home, there has to be good reason to believe your well-being is in jeopardy before you can lawfully shoot.

In addition to law enforcement's concerns about what the bill would do to the safety of officers, other opponents cited concerns about what implications liberalizing deadly force requirements would have in situations like domestic disputes. For instance, Joan Peterson, Protect Minnesota board member member of the Brady Campaign Board, issued the following statement following Dayton's veto:

This bill could give the claim of self-defense to any domestic abuser engaged in a dispute with a partner or spouse. When only two people are involved in a dispute and one of them winds up dead, who is left to disprove the claim of the shooter that s/he was the one threatened? As someone whose sister was shot to death in a domestic case in Minneapolis, I am grateful that Governor Dayton vetoed this bill that could have allowed domestic abusers to get away with murder.

The measure passed by votes of 40-23 in the Senate and 85-47 in the House, so there aren't enough votes to override Dayton's veto. In response, Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder and author of the House version of the bill, said he plans to bring the issue back to the Legislature each year until it becomes law.

Related coverage:
-- Controversial pro-gun "deadly force" bill approved by Senate, likely headed to Dayton
-- Police, prosecutors oppose bill easing "deadly force" requirements
-- Controversial bill easing "deadly force" requirements advancing through legislature

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