The Alaska State House of Representatives passed Rep. Mark Neuman’s self-defense bill late Saturday afternoon, giving law-abiding Alaskans the right to stand their ground while protecting themselves and their family in a public place instead of having the duty to retreat.
“I think it will make Alaskans more confident in the law,” Neuman, R-Big Lake, said when asked if the bill would make Alaskans feel safer, or, on another point, more bold. “Knowing that the rights that they have within their home are carried with them anywhere they have the right to be, as far as their rights to defend themselves.”
The state of Alaska already recognizes the right to use deadly force in self-defense. It also states there is a duty to retreat. If a person knows they can do so safely they are required to retreat.
“Well, you know, hindsight is pretty good,” Neuman said. “Who knows if you have the ability to retreat safely or not? The person who is in that incident at that time is the only person who can make that decision, not a judge or a jury.”
Neuman stated the bill places the duty to retreat on the criminal or person who means to do harm and has left the justification for the use of deadly force unchanged.
“I don’t think the bill can be abused in any way,” Neuman said. “Claims that it will make more crimes out there are unfounded. I think the crooks know the law and if they know that Alaskans have the right to defend themselves I think there is a good chance there will be less crime.”
Neuman stated in a press release of working with the state’s Department of Law and fellow legislators to respond to concerns of increased violence or more criminal prosecutions, “A person is only legally allowed to use deadly force when that person reasonably believes the use of deadly force is necessary. It’s not a blank check to pull the trigger.”
HB 80 says a person in a public place, not trespassing, does not have to retreat first and hope the assailant doesn’t follow.
Neuman said the default shouldn’t be to flee if you have a right to be somewhere.
“If you’re in a life-threatening situation you shouldn’t have to worry about the legal consequences of protecting yourself,” Neuman said. “In those moments every second is precious.”
Neuman stated he is extremely grateful for the hundreds of emails he received in support of the bill. He likened the number to the amount received for House Bill 110, an oil tax cut aimed at more oil production and investment, which shows, Neuman said, “This is how much interest Alaskans have in it. That’s a good indicator for people who are aware of the Legislature and what goes on and their desire to be able to protect themselves. That number of contacts is quite a statement from the public.”
Continued Neuman, “If you are breaking the law you are breaking the law. We are not doing anything in justification. If you are acting illegally you are acting illegally. Justification clauses aren’t changed at all and that is the bottom line in all of this.”
HB 80 passed by a vote of 33 to 6 and now moves to the Alaska Senate for consideration.
• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.