The state of Wyoming is set to join the growing number of states that recognize an individual has no duty to retreat from a threat. The bill has now passed the legislature and is headed to the governor’s desk where he must decide to sign or veto the bill.
However, it wasn’t always a likely slam dunk, even in Wyoming where Governor Matt Mead expressed concerns with a previous incarnation of the bill.
The legislation is meant to strengthen and clarify Wyoming’s self-defense laws, something advocates say is necessary to empower law-abiding state residents to protect themselves. But critics have expressed a variety of concerns, ranging from the restrictions that the bill would place on law enforcement to novel legal mechanisms that would be introduced to state statute.
In an interview last week, Mead expressed concern about an earlier version of the bill that would have initially granted suspects in assault or murder cases immunity from arrest or prosecution if they claimed to have acted in self-defense.
“I thought you were creating almost a super-class there,” Mead said. “I don’t think that is good law.”
But the two “stand your ground bills” being considered by the Legislature, which became largely identical after several major amendments, eventually removed the criminal immunity provision, which also would have required a judge to find a defendant claiming self-defense guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt” before a trial would be allowed to proceed.
Mead praised that change, spearheaded by Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, despite warnings against the change from the National Rifle Association and Wyoming Gun Owners.
Mead’s earlier concerns were certainly valid. After all, take someone committing cold-blooded murder, where all the evidence points to it being murder, but because the killer claims self-defense, nothing can be done. This is not a good set of circumstances.
While I am a big fan of Stand Your Ground laws, and I do appreciate protections being put in place to keep people from being prosecuted for what clearly is a self-defense situation, a scenario like the one outlined above is not something any of us would want to see. This would actually give fuel to opponents of Stand Your Ground laws, handing them valuable ammunition to use in their war on our rights.
And it would become hard to counter. Whether that’s even remotely possible would depend on the text of the bill, however.
Instead, it sounds like Wyoming has a bill that’s much more in line with what other states have, which will provide valuable protections for law-abiding citizens forced to kill in self-defense. That’s an event that is traumatizing enough for most people. The last thing anyone needs is to then be forced to undergo a lengthy legal defense just because a prosecutor thinks you should have tried to run away.
Now it’s up to the governor to sign the bill, and the indication is that he will, even if the NRA isn’t thrilled with it. Frankly, they’re not in any place to judge right now considering their stances on bump stocks.