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Published Wednesday, February 21, 2001, in the Herald-Leader

Deadly force bill adds 3 crimes to lethal-defense list

Little opposition as measure goes to full House on 10-3 vote

By John Cheves

FRANKFORT The list of legal reasons for Kentuckians to kill someone could grow considerably this year.

House Bill 49, easily approved yesterday by the House Judiciary Committee, adds several categories to the acts that justify the use of deadly force.

State law already allows people to kill to protect themselves or others if they think they're threatened with death, kidnapping or forced sexual intercourse. The bill, which proceeds to the House, would add most types of burglary, robbery and sodomy.

The bill is necessary for Kentuckians to be safe in their homes, because even property crimes like burglary can turn deadly, said Rep. Bob Damron, its sponsor. ``We need to be on the side of law-abiding citizens who are being victimized a little more often than being on the side of the criminal,'' said Damron, D-Nicholasville, after the hearing.

``If someone's in my house at 3 a.m., they're probably not there to make breakfast for me,'' Damron said. ``Do you ask them to shoot first before you return fire? If they're a good shot, I may not have the opportunity to return fire.''

Only a few legislators criticized the bill. They asked whether it could lead to mistaken but legal shootings if an overzealous gun owner notices somebody outside his neighbor's home, somebody who could be a friend or repairman.

``I wonder whether we're ever going to stop encouraging citizens of the commonwealth to use deadly force in situations. I think this is a very dangerous broadening of the right one has to protect oneself from physical injury,'' said Rep. Kathy Stein, D-Lexington. ``This piece of legislation gives citizens of the commonwealth more rights to shoot someone, to kill them, than is given to our trained law enforcement,'' Stein said.

But Damron, who led the successful effort to legalize concealed weapons in Kentucky, also noted the bill isn't limited to shooting people. ```Use of force' could be a knife, it could be some other means,'' Damron said. ``It's not a gun bill, as some have purported it to be.''

Another Lexington Democrat, Rep. Jesse Crenshaw, said he objected to the use of deadly force to defend property.

``We're saying you can kill another human being, and the reason you can kill them is because these items of property are worth more than another human life,'' said Crenshaw, who voted against the bill. ``We've got insurance that covers property. You get the property back, or you get the equivalent of it, and you prosecute the person who burglarized the place.''

The committee voted 10-3 to approve the bill, with two members abstaining.

Stein, who voted against the bill, succeeded in amending it to remove a section that allowed deadly force to prevent attempted burglary, robbery and sodomy. She said that could be dangerous, given the inability to predict what somebody is about to do.

Damron also dropped a section allowing deadly force against people who attempt ``deviate sexual intercourse,'' replacing it with the specific offense of sodomy.

Gay and lesbian activists had worried that the original description could legally justify the shooting of someone making a romantic overture to a person of the same sex. State law in the past defined homosexual sex as deviate, although courts have removed the criminal penalty.


A proposal that would protect the check-cashing industry clears panel again. Page B1

n A fee on beverage containers moves forward. Page B1

A farmer and high-school teacher from Crittenden, who was a contestant on Survivor II, wouldn't tell Gov. Patton who the winner was. Page B1 Today's legislative calendar is on Page B5

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