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Archive for Sunday, January 29, 2006

Wyoming a battleground in fight over deadly force

January 29, 2006

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— In the "Cowboy State" where guns are present in more than half of all homes, an unlikely battleground is forming in the fight over the appropriate use of firearms.

Flush with victory in its push for state laws allowing concealed handguns, the National Rifle Assn. is lobbying lawmakers here and in 11 other states to make it easier for people to defend themselves with deadly force.

The NRA, backed by a growing membership of about 4 million, wants legislation specifying that people have no duty to retreat from an attacker before using deadly force. About half of all states have similar rules on the books.

But in Wyoming, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is taking a stand.

James Brady, the former press secretary to President Reagan who was wounded in an attack on the president, called on Wyoming legislators in a statement last week to oppose the legislation. He called it "a sham, a farce, a dangerous solution to a nonexistent problem."

Neither state Rep. Stephen Watt, a Republican sponsor of the Wyoming bill, nor Uinta County Atty Mike Greer, the president of the Wyoming County and Prosecuting Attorneys Assn., could cite a Wyoming case in which someone was prosecuted but would have been spared if a no-retreat law were on the books.

But Watt says that's not the point.

"It's about a right to defend yourself," said Watt, a former policeman. "And that is a right that we all should have, regardless of whether there's been any cases where someone has been prosecuted for using self defense or not. It's something that we should not have to worry about, and this is to give back that right to the citizens of Wyoming."

Twenty-five states have such laws on the books, and the NRA says 38 states now have some provision allowing people to carry concealed handguns, up from 10 in the mid-1980s.

NRA spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the group is now pushing no-retreat bills in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, South Carolina, South Dakota and Washington, in addition to Wyoming. He said it was eyeing other states as well.

"It is a priority," Arulanandam said. "In states where the statute calls for victims of crime to retreat, we think that that's wrong."

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