Statement from PLBC Chair Ronald G. Waters commending Governor Ed Rendell for his veto of expanded Castle Doctrine bill
Statement from PLBC Chair Ronald G. Waters commending Governor Ed Rendell for his veto of expanded Castle Doctrine bill HARRISBURG, Dec. 2 – As chairman of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus, I commend Governor Ed Rendell for his decision to veto H.B. 1926, also known as the Castle Doctrine expansion bill.
I voted against the legislation because of its inherent dangers. I support the Castle Doctrine already on the books in Pennsylvania, which says that a person has a right to protect their home, their “castle” against intruders. However, the bill would have expanded the Castle Doctrine so that the word “castle” would no longer apply. This legislation went out into the streets—wherever people find themselves—and created a wide-open condition where you would no longer have to retreat when you feel threatened, but rather you could shoot first and ask questions later. You would no longer have to confront people verbally, just shoot to kill if you have a gun. These circumstances only encourage people to arm themselves, and can lead to a lethal confrontation which can prove harmful not only to those in conflict but innocent bystanders as well. Anyone knocking on someone’s door could be met with deadly force.
In addition, the bill contained no benchmarks for gun owners, and no additional training in proper gun usage. Even police departments are trained not to use deadly force unless they have to. They must have a perfect score of 100 in their firearms qualifying course in order to become police officers. If law enforcement requires training in the police academies on the proper time to use a weapon, then ordinary citizens should as well. Further, the bill extremely limited the ability of innocent victims’ families to file a civil action, thereby removing the element of responsibility.
I supported H.B. 1926— which would have protected young citizens by closing a loophole in Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law— in its original form. I voted for the original Megan’s Law legislation in the Judiciary Committee and on the House floor because it was a good bill. I also questioned and voted against H.B. 40, which was the expanded Castle doctrine, in committee. However, the Megan’s Law provision was later bundled with the Castle Doctrine bill into a single, unfair piece of legislation. The two bills address unrelated issues, and therefore should run separately and independently on their own merits.
The National Rifle Association supported the new Castle Doctrine legislation with expanded gun use. However, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association opposed the bill because it “gives thugs a new line of defense to escape the law,” and I support their decision. We have been trying our best to get the General Assembly to pass reasonable gun legislation to no avail, so they pass expansion of gun use instead.
I support a standalone Megan’s Law bill, and look forward to voting on it in the next legislation session. I encourage all members of the General Assembly to explore reasonable legislation that we can agree upon and sign into law next term.
I applaud Governor Rendell for his leadership and his commitment to protecting the safety of all Pennsylvanians. ###