Link to the story Lethal force in self-defense is legal, Indiana law says State makes clear: Retreat unnecessary in face of threat By Bill Ruthhart firstname.lastname@example.org March 22, 2006 Indiana has become the third state to join an emerging national debate on self-defense, making clear that people have the right to use deadly force when threatened without first trying to back away. Gov. Mitch Daniels on Tuesday signed House Enrolled Act 1028, which says Hoosiers do not have to retreat before using deadly force to prevent serious bodily injury to themselves or someone else. More than a dozen other states are considering similar legislation. The change may be largely symbolic. Unlike in some states, Indiana did not previously require residents to retreat before using a gun or other deadly weapon. The new law, however, clarifies state law and prevents courts from determining that Hoosiers should run before using a gun. "This bill would eliminate any duty to retreat that a court might decide is necessary," said Rep. Eric Koch, R-Bedford, the bill's author. "We're only one of three states to have put it in statute to make sure that doesn't change." The legislation puts Indiana in the middle of a burgeoning national debate. Critics say the laws can encourage gun violence. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence has labeled such legislation "shoot-first" bills. Peter Hamm, a campaign spokesman, said Indiana's bill is "horrible" and "a big mistake." "It's really a potentially dangerous solution to a nonexistent problem because there is not a scenario of legitimate self-defense anywhere in the country that doesn't get treated by juries, prosecutors and police as self-defense," Hamm said. "We shouldn't be encouraging people to use deadly force in public. That's why we have trained police officers." The National Rifle Association has lobbied across the country for the legislation. The group calls them "Stand Your Ground" bills. Florida and South Dakota have passed the measure, while 15 other states are considering similar legislation, according to the NRA. "Law-abiding citizens should not be forced to retreat when they're being attacked by criminals, whether it's inside their home or outside their home," said Chris W. Cox, chief lobbyist for the NRA. "A victim of a crime can still choose to retreat if they want to, but if they believe the best recourse is to stand their ground and fight, they're not going to be victimized a second time by the legal system." While Indiana has allowed the use of deadly force in life-threatening situations, in some states the "Stand Your Ground" bill would extend that right from crimes committed at someone's home or property to acts such as carjackings and robberies in public. Koch's bill received bipartisan support, passing 44-5 in the Senate and 81-10 in the House. But not everyone was on board. "We're talking about a bill that says you don't have a duty to retreat, but I think we should be avoiding problems as much as we can," said Rep. Vernon G. Smith, D-Gary. "This legislation says, 'Go get 'em!' " While similar legislation may mean major changes in other states, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi said it wouldn't have much impact on how cases are tried in Indiana. "There was never a duty to retreat to begin with," Brizzi said. "This just clarifies the law." Still, he's supportive of the right to use deadly force in a life-threatening situation. That's why Daniels signed it Tuesday. "The governor said that this makes the law clear that men and women are entitled to defend themselves, their property and loved ones in extreme situations," said Jane Jankowski, the governor's press secretary. "This is really a clarification of the right to self-defense in Indiana."