An amendment to a self-defense law that would increase protection for Missourians who use deadly force against intruders is on its way to the Senate.
The Missouri House approved legislation last week to expand the castle doctrine law, which currently says that property owners may use deadly force in self-defense during an attack on a their home. House bill 2126 would give that same right to guests on private property with the consent of the owner.
Bill sponsor Rep. Joe Don McGaugh of the 39th district said people put in this situation must have reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to protect themselves, an unborn child or another person against serious physical injury in order to be protected by the castle doctrine.
“A good example of this would be if you have an individual at your home that would be a caretaker for your children, instead of them having to retreat from the home first that would be able to protect the individuals in that home,” McGaugh said.
McGaugh said he thinks this is a common sense addition to the castle doctrine, which was originally approved in 2007.
“That’s not to say,” he said, “we’re allowing people to shoot first and ask questions later. They still have to have a reasonable belief that the force they use is necessary to protect themselves.”
Rep. Jill Schupp of the 88th district was one of the minority that voted against the bill. She says she's concerned that giving people a pass to shoot and kill someone would create a "Wild West scenario" in Missouri.
"If they feel that their life is being threatened, then of course they need to take steps to protect themselves and their families," she said.
"But then we have a process through our courts for people to have the due process on both sides to ensure that the action that was taken was appropriate and somebody just didn’t utilize this new potential provision in the law as an excuse for over-reacting to something and killing someone."
While Schupp was not in the legislature when the castle doctrine was passed, she says she would not have supported it, because she doesn't think it is necessary.
The house vote was 110-39 for the new bill. District 55 Rep. Rick Brattin said the amendment had his support.
“The last thing we need people doing before they go to protect themselves is wondering, ‘If I protect myself am I going to be thrown into prison for doing so?’” Brattin said. “I don’t think that’s good policy for governments to engage in having that gray area to where people don’t know if they’re allowed to protect themselves and their families.”
Rep. Mike Kelley of the 127th district says the amendment was needed to clarify what is already being said in the castle doctrine.
“The way that the wording is on the castle doctrine statute, there are those that would argue that it must be your residence or that you are renting the residence. So if you’re a guest not paying money then it does not protect you,” Kelley said. “This would simply clarify that language.”