States Strengthen Right of Self-Defense

posted on April 21, 2021

Among the many pro-gun, pro-freedom measures that have so far found success at the state level this legislative session, efforts in three states to strengthen the right of self-defense are quite notable; in fact, two states passed new or improved “Stand Your Ground” laws already this spring, and in another state the legislature passed a measure that is currently awaiting consideration by the governor.

Arkansas got the ball rolling back in early March when Gov. Asa Hutchison signed S.B. 24 into law. The recently passed law recognizes Arkansans’ fundamental right to self-defense anywhere they are legally allowed to be. Further, law-abiding citizens will no longer be required by law to retreat before using force to defend themselves.

While many anti-gun advocates claim Stand Your Ground laws embolden potential victims who they believe should attempt to retreat from their own homes and properties before reverting to using a firearm for self-defense, a vast majority of U.S. states have such victim-empowering laws on the books. With the passage of S.B. 24, Arkansas became the 35th state to pass a Stand Your Ground law allowing citizens to more-effectively protect themselves and their loved-ones, instead of forcing unnecessary risks upon them.  

“This law ensures the rights of law-abiding Arkansans are protected,” said Jason Ouimet, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA). “Victims have little time to react when confronted with a criminal attack, they should not be required to try and run away before defending themselves. This is a common-sense piece of self-defense legislation.”

At the end of March, South Dakota passed a strengthened version of Stand Your Ground, which provides more protection of self-defense rights of law-abiding South Dakotans. Among other things, NRA-backed H.B. 1212 enhances citizen’s right to self-defense by strengthening and explaining when justifiable force can be used in defense of a person or persons.

Specifically, the legislation states: “A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if the person reasonably believes that using or threatening to use deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself, herself or another, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”

The legislation continues: “A person who uses or threatens to use deadly force in accordance with this section does not have a duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground, if the person using or threatening to use the deadly force is: (1) Not engaged in a criminal activity; and (2) In a place where the person has a right to be.”

“I would like to thank Gov. Noem for her leadership on this critical self-defense initiative,” Brian Gosch, NRA state director of South Dakota, said at the signing ceremony. “Today was a celebration of freedom for the law-abiding gun owners of South Dakota. These additions clarify South Dakota's existing stand your ground law and recognize the importance of defending our inalienable right to self-defense.”

Meanwhile, in neighboring North Dakota, H.B. 1498 has been approved by the state legislature and was sent to Gov. Doug Burgum on April 9 for consideration. If signed, the measure will strengthen North Dakotans’ fundamental right to self-defense anywhere citizens are legally allowed to be. And if enacted, law-abiding citizens would no longer be required to retreat before defending themselves.  

Republican state Sen. Janne Myrdal said it best after voting to approve the measure: “Victims of violent crime who respond with defensive force while protecting themselves or loved ones ... should not have to face additional threat of criminal prosecution. We believe that if you do carry a gun and if you face that horrible situation, life or death, that you should be able to defend yourself and not flee.”

NRA-ILA is encouraging North Dakota residents to contact Gov. Burgum and encourage him to sign both H.B. 1498 and H.B. 1450, another pro-gun measure approved by the legislature.

The 35 states that currently have Stand Your Ground laws in place include Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. If Gov. Burgum signs the North Dakota bill into law, the total will stand at 36—nearly three-quarters of U.S. states.


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