Staff editorial: Nov 10, 2011

Last week, the state legislature approved a law that will allow homeowners to kill intruders without penalty.

The Senate passed the law 76-24, where it then moved to the Assembly, which voted to pass it 26 to 7 after clarifying that immunity will not apply to hurting someone the homeowner should have known was a public safety officer.

But with a bill this dangerous, that’s not the only clarification that needs to be made. Revisions are needed before a bill this bold can be signed into law.

First, it shouldn’t be legal to kill someone — yes, to end someone’s life — just for being in your house. There needs to be the threat of imminent danger in order to justify killing that person in self-defense.

Also, “intruder” needs to be defined. The bill might justify crimes of passion if a set definition of what it meant by intruder is not laid out. For example, if, after a rough divorce, one partner returns to the place they once lived to pick up the child they share joint custody of with their former spouse, are they an intruder? They shouldn’t be, and the text of the bill needs to reflect things like that before being legalized.

After all, the so-called intruder won’t be able to prove they weren’t intruding if they’re dead. We should be able to legally defend ourselves against legitimate threats, but there’s no way to prove in court that someone was a legitimate threat if the homeowner already killed them without repercussion.

This law could potentially open up a lot of crime. Not only must “intruder” be defined, but “property,” as well. The law, if passed, should only apply to the inside of the house, not to the yard, driveway, or any external property.

The law needs clearer, stronger language. Killing an intruder should only be legal in the absolute most dire, life-threatening situations, and this law needs to differentiate between people who need to kill and who decide to kill.