Legislation to broaden the rights of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves has been approved by the full State Senate. House Bill 2615, known as the “Stand Your Ground” bill by Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole and Rep. Kevin Calvey, R-Del City, was approved by the Senate on Tuesday by a vote of 39 to 5.
Coates said the “Make My Day” law had resulted in a dramatic decrease in burglaries in Oklahoma. He predicted the “Stand Your Ground” bill would also help deter crime.
“According to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, there were 58,251 burglaries committed in Oklahoma in 1987, the year before the legislation was passed. In 2004, there were 35,244 reported burglaries,” Coates said. “Burglaries have gone down and I believe it is not a coincidence.”
Coates explained the legislation would extend some of the protection already given to Oklahomans under the “Make My Day” legislation originally approved in the late 1980s.
“That legislation gave homeowners the right to use deadly force, if necessary, to protect themselves and their families against intruders,” Coates said. “HB 2615 extends that to other locations, such as a vehicle. We’ve all heard of car-jacking cases where the thief actually drove off with the children still buckled in.
The law needs to be on the side of the parent trying to protect their children.”
The legislation would guarantee immunity from both criminal prosecution and civil action if the use of force is justified. The bill allows law enforcement to use standard procedures for investigation of use of force. HB 2615 also states that such force cannot be used against someone who has the right to be in the dwelling, residence or vehicle.
The provisions of the bill would apply to all individuals, regardless of whether they had a license to carry a concealed weapon. However, a person who uses force that is justified under the legislation could still be charged for illegally carrying a weapon.
“Alabama, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi and South Dakota already have similar laws on their books,” Coates said. “It is important to ensure that citizens have the law on their side should they need to use force to protect themselves and their families.”
HB 2615 now returns to the House of Representatives for approval of Senate amendments before being sent to Governor Brad Henry for his consideration.