Legislation signed by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett that expands on an individual's right to use lethal force in self-defense is set to go into effect today.
Act 10 of 2011, widely known as the 'Castle Doctrine,' allows individuals to use lethal force to defend themselves in their residence (including porch, deck, or patio) or occupied vehicle against an assailant threatening them or a third party.
The legislation, sponsored chiefly by state Rep. Scott Perry (R-92) and state Sen. Richard Alloway (R-33), was championed by the National Rifle Association and is being viewed as a major victory by advocates like Jack Lee, president of Pennsylvania's Rifle and Pistol Association.
"It has been a long and hard effort by many of our friends in the state House and Senate. We all need to personally thank them for their support, and I can‘t say enough about the work that was done and the blood, sweat and tears that were shed by (members of) the NRA and other active pro-gunners throughout Pa," Lee said.
State Rep. Matt Gabler (R-Elk/Clearfield) was one of the bill's cosponsors.
"The signing of this bill into law is long overdue, but nevertheless welcome for those of us who have cosponsored this legislation from the start. This bill is important because it places innocent victims first," Gabler said. "This dispels the notion that a would-be victim has a duty to retreat before exercising a right to self-defense.
"I’m very honored and proud to have had the opportunity to take part in the creation of this new law that will make Pennsylvania safer for law-abiding citizens.”
The "duty to retreat" is in reference to the pre-existing law, which held that an individual had to be in the process of retreating from an attacker or intruder before the use of deadly force was justifiable. The new law eliminates that requirement.
Sandy Stark of Force said she supports the new law.
"There are situations where you can't retreat...someone has children in bed asleep, they can't retreat. If I had my grandchildren staying overnight, I would do whatever it took. I would prefer if the person would just leave, but if they won't, I would be capable of shooting them," Stark said.
A St. Marys resident who wished to remain anonymous said the new law would help people stay safe.
"Everyone has a gun around here. They'll think twice about breaking in if they know there's a gun on the other side of that door," he said.
The new law is not without its opponents, though. Dale Griffith of Emporium said he feels that individuals should not be encouraged to take the law into their own hands.
"When seconds count, the police are only seconds away," Griffith said.