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Use of deadly force laws expanded

Published: Mar. 26, 2021 at 6:38 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - This past Sunday, Governor Kristi Noem signed House Bill 1212, which expands the use of South Dakota’s stand your ground laws, providing legal immunity to some who use deadly force.

According to the bill’s authors, immunity will be granted when such force is necessary to prevent an imminent threat. The person claiming immunity also can’t be doing anything illegal and must be in a place they “have the right to be.”

“In South Dakota, we’re a pro second amendment state. There’s no other state that’s more pro second amendment,” says State Representative Tim Goodwin. “There’s no government or legislature that’s more pro second amendment. So, this just goes hand in glove with that.”

The previous version of the bill was 5 paragraphs. By the time it was signed into law, it was 5 pages.

Those who have stood against the bill believe the wording is vague. They say it’s unclear when deadly force may be exercised. They worry the law could provoke the public into using their firearms when unnecessary.

“We haven’t had any trouble, to my knowledge, on what we have existing with stand your ground. There were no case laws that showed we had any issues,” says State Senator Helene Duhamel. “I think that this could lead to bad people deliberately shooting people they have no reason to shoot. I think that, no question, people will just be a little bit more aggressive with their firearms.”

But some proponents of the new law believe that this would, ideally, lead to a decrease in crime.

“We’d hope that it would work as a deterrent. Where somebody might think twice before they come into your house to try to do harm to you or try to rob you, or even worse. Whatever they’re going to do. This would work as a deterrent,” says Representative Goodwin. “‘Maybe I shouldn’t break into that guys house, he might shoot me.’ That’s a deterrent. So, we think it will actually help crime instead of hurt it.”

Although part of South Dakota’s appeal is a history of cowboys and ruggedness, skeptics fear the law will encourage vigilante justice, instead of calling on the services of well trained and proper authorities.

“I think they will take justice into their own hands, kind of stepping back into the old west, instead of calling the cops,” says Senator Duhamel.

The law will officially go into effect July 1st.

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