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'Stand your ground' bill fails in North Dakota House

BISMARCK — By a slight margin, the North Dakota House voted down a so-called "stand your ground" bill that supporters said would "empower potential victims."

House Bill 1497 failed by a vote of 49-41 on Wednesday, Feb. 20. Rep. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, introduced the bill to the House Judiciary Committee in January, which gave an 8-6 "do-pass" recommendation to the bill after amendments in committee work. Similar legislation failed in 2017.

"This bill would allow an individual to defend themselves when being attacked by removing the requirement to attempt a retreat before using deadly force," Magrum said.

Opponents highlighted North Dakota's so-called "castle doctrine," or the right to essentially use deadly force in one's home, vehicle or workplace. People generally have a "duty to retreat" when assailed in public, unless use of force can't be avoided.

"What you have here is basically a bill where you have the right to shoot first and ask questions second," said Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo.

Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, urged the bill's passage.

"The people of North Dakota ... don't take the law into their own hands, but they should have the right to defend themselves," he said.