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Deadly force gun bill heads to Senate

ST. PAUL — Minnesota residents would have greater freedom to defend their homes with deadly force under a bill headed to the state Senate floor over the objections of police, who said it could endanger officers.

The measure was approved last year by the House. Its passage by a 10-5 vote Thursday in the Senate Finance Committee sends it to the full Senate, where supporters predict it will pass. Gov. Mark Dayton said he hadn’t decided yet if he would sign or veto the bill.The provision, known as the castle doctrine, allows the use of deadly force with a weapon if people believe they are in imminent danger while defending a dwelling.

Current law allows self-defense when a person reasonably believes there’s a threat of bodily harm or death. The bill creates a presumption that a person who uses deadly force has such a belief, and it would eliminate any duty to retreat from a threatening situation. It also expands the definition of dwelling to include a home, hotel room or other overnight accommodation, tent, car or boat. The effect of the bill would be to make it harder to prosecute or sue a homeowner for using deadly force.

“It puts the onus on the criminal and not the victim,” Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, the bill’s lead sponsor, told the committee. “We should be able to be someplace lawfully and protect ourselves.