Possible expansion of "reasonable force" - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Possible expansion of "reasonable force"

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- Some Iowans are up in arms about a proposed bill that would expand the definition of reasonable force.

Under current law, a person may use reasonable force - including deadly force - when protecting oneself, one's home or one's workplace. Otherwise, if there is a threatening situation in public, a person is required to stand down and seek emergency assistance.

Under the proposed bill, people could use deadly force anywhere they have a legal right to be.

Also, the proposed legislation would grant a person using such actions immunity from criminal prosecution or civil actions, if, in fact, the force was deemed reasonable by law enforcement.

Some law enforcement officers, however, see problems with the bill.

"The major difference between what we have on the books right now and what's being proposed in this amendment is, you're required to retreat or seek some kind of escape from the situation, if at all possible," Dubuque Police Department's Lt. Scott Baxter said. "My interpretation of this proposed amendment would be that, you're not as restricted in terms of what's required of you, in terms of retreating."

Bill sponsor Republican representative Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley said the bill is meant to enhance Iowans' ability to protect themselves or others against a forcible felony without fear of legal prosecution. He also said it's not just about using guns, but rather about meeting any force with force in preventing a forcible felony, such as serious injury or death.

This proposed legislation comes on the heels of Iowa's Shall Issue law, effective the first of the year, which now allows any Iowan who meets certain criteria and passes a background check to obtain a permit to carry a handgun. Previously, each county's sheriff had the discretion to grant or deny that permit.

Law enforcement officers see how this situation could be used for good but say the potential damage may outweigh that.

"We want to prevent situations like down in Arizona," Lt. Baxter said, referring to the recent shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, AZ. "Maybe if somebody had been a law-abiding gun-owner in possession of a weapon at that time, maybe they could've saved some lives that day, too. But, again, there's a fine balance between saving those lives and maybe taking more lives inadvertently because you can't hit your target, because you're not proficient with your weapon, things like that."

Rep. Windschitl said Wednesday, in light of law enforcement officers' and attorneys' concerns, he is working on an amendment to the proposed legislation.

Online Reporter Becca Habegger

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