Gov. Doug Burgum signed legislation Tuesday that eases restrictions on citizens’ rights to use deadly force in self-defense and allows someone to use deadly force without retreating in certain circumstances.
The proposal to remove the so-called duty to retreat provision was the latest attempt by pro-gun conservative lawmakers to modify the state’s “castle law,” which allows people to stand their ground and use whatever force necessary to protect themselves or their home.
“Over half of U.S. states have ‘stand your ground’ laws, and now ... so does North Dakota,” the Republican governor said in a statement. “We’ll always protect our Second Amendment rights and our state’s constitutional right ‘to keep and bear arms for the defense of their person, family, property, and the state.’”
The sponsor of House Bill 1498, Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, called the legislation “the most consequential gun law change in North Dakota for a long time.”
The new law “ensures someone will not have to run away prior to protecting themselves or their family,” he said.
At least 25 states have laws saying there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force against an attacker, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Backers of the legislation said criminals have had an advantage over potential victims, who should not have to retreat in a life-threatening situation. The legislation doesn’t apply to someone who provokes someone and then uses deadly force.
The bill received broad support in both Republican-led legislative chambers, with a 78-10 vote in the House and a 35-10 vote in the Senate.
The more moderate Senate historically hasn’t shown much support for legislation pushed by the so-called Bastiat Caucus, a far-right group that supports limited government and gun rights.
The group sponsored legislation in 2017 that would allow North Dakotans to use deadly force against someone who is fleeing a crime, including misdemeanor offenses.
That bill was killed after prosecutors, criminal defense lawyers, clergy and others called it ill-conceived and feared it would create an open season on criminals.