by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
A bill broadening the legal use of deadly force passed the House over the weekend (Saturday, May 14).
House Public Safety Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Good Thunder, saw his legislation, which he amended from an earlier version, pass the House on a 79-50.
“Yes, you prosecutors will have to work harder to prove somebody was wrong,” said Cornish of a provision in the bill requiring the state to prove that a defender’s use of deadly force was unjustified.
Cornish, Chief of Police of Lake Crystal and lifelong law man, said 20 other states already have laws like his legislation, and what happened in those states? “Zero, zilch, nada, nothing happened,” he said of negative effects.
Under the legislation, the use of deadly force is permitted to resist or prevent the commission of a felony in a dwelling, to resist or prevent what an individual reasonable believes is an imminent threat of substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm or death, or to resist or prevent a forcible felony.
The definition of dwelling under the bill extends to garages, cars, campers, hotel rooms, other abodes.
The use of deadly force can be applied in a situation where there’s an attempt to force someone from their car, under the bill.
Defenders are allowed to meet force with superior force when the action is defensive, and defenders may stand their ground — they do not have to retreat.
The presumption that defenders are acting legally does not extent to cases where a person against whom deadly force is used lawfully lives in a dwelling, lawfully owns a car, has lawful custody of a person being removed.
It does not extend to criminal acts. It does not extend to actions against law enforcement.
In recent days, several metro county attorneys and law enforcement association officials have appeared at the Capitol to lobby against Cornish’s bill.
But Cornish insists the associations do not speak for all law enforcement officers. “They’re not unified at all,” said Cornish of opposition to his bill within the law enforcement community.
Indeed, Cornish explained some police officers are afraid to speak out in favor of his bill out of fear they’d be “blackballed” by the associations.
Debate on the House floor was intense.
In drawing up a hypothetical situation, Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, asked Cornish to imagine a situation in which he, Cornish, became so furious over the floor debate on his bill that he began threatening Paymar — threatening to beat the hell out of him, Paymar detailed.
Imagine too, asked Paymar, that he, Cornish, suddenly came at him.
Could he, convinced he was about to face substantial bodily harm, pull out his gun and “blow you away?” asked Paymar.
Cornish indicated yes, in the hypothetical situation, Paymar would be justified in using deadly force under the bill.
Other Democratic lawmakers offered other hypothetical situations — could he open fire if someone was trying to force him off his motorcycle, one asked lawmaker.
Cornish agreed that unforeseen things could happen. “This is not a solve-all. This is not a silver bullet, pardon the expression,” he said of his bill. But Cornish argued that the same extreme portrayals were offered during the concealed carry debate. And time has proved them wrong, Cornish explained.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton has indicated concerns over the use of deadly force legislation.
In the Senate the legislation has not yet had a floor vote.