JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri's House approved by an overwhelming margin a measure that includes expansion of the the so-called "Castle Doctrine" that provides a legal defense for killing an unwanted intruder on one's property.
The House measure would add private property and leased property to the grounds upon which one can use deadly force against an intruder.
What supporters call the "Castle Doctrine" allows one to use physical force to defend against an intruder if the person believes the intruder is or is going to harm them with "unlawful force."
Currently, the "Castle Doctrine" applies dwellings, residences, or vehicles. Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, said he proposed this amendment to protect business owners, who according to Stevenson would fall under the category of "private property." Stevenson cited an armed robbery that occurred at a pharmacy near his law practice, and said under current law, the owner had an "obligation to retreat," and could not physically defend himself legally.
Representatives voted 130 to 21 in favor of Stevenson's amendment, with the majority of opposition coming from Democratic legislators representing urban areas. Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, also voted against the amendment. Still said legislators had "bigger issues" to discuss.
"I don't think that amendment belonged in that bill," Still said.
Rep.Chris Kelly, D-Columbia voted in favor of the amendment, one he said featured "carefully written language."
"I don't have a problem with 'Castle Doctrine,'" Kelly said. "People should be able to defend their property. I think a lot of the issues with it are 99 percent perception, and one percent reality."
The legislation amended is an omnibus judiciary bill covering several unrelated issues, like conceal and carry rights, adoption records, and personal privacy. Kelly, who not only voted in favor of Stevenson's amendment, but also the over-arching law, said he was inclined "primarily because it's the overall judiciary omnibus bill," and because "it will help the courts in Boone County, in every county."
Ironically, the bill started out as a simple measure dealing with real estate licensing -- having nothing to do with the right to kill, concealed weapons or adoption records.
Rep. Stephen Webber, D-Columbia, also supported the bill.
"This [legislation] will definitely effect Columbians," Webber said. "It protects individuals Social Security numbers; personal privacy is a big issue."
Under the proposed legislation, an individual could request that his or her Social Security number must be removed from any filings, judgments, or pleadings before they are released to the public.
Webber acknowledged that having several components within a single bill could make it difficult to agree with every stature.
"With all that in one bill, it's tough to be for or against all of it," Webber said. "Some people had parts they didn't like. The open adoption records were kind of controversial."
Rep. Mary Still, D-Columbia, said she voted against the bill because of the adoption provisions, which would open records like birth certificates and medical histories to adoptee's over the age of 18.
"I felt there was a lack of protection for birth mothers," Still said, "and too much court intrusion in personal, family matters."
The House voted to pass the bill, with 130 members in favor and 21 opposed. The legislation -- originally limited to real estate licensing -- will move to the Senate for consideration.
In 1994, in a decision called Hammerschmidt involving Boone County, the state Supreme Court struck down a law because the lawmakers stuck onto the bill a number of unrelated issues.