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Hoffman bill targets home intruders

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One local politician has her controversial agenda locked and loaded at the Minnesota Legislature.

District 10 Senator and conservative Republican Gretchen Hoffman has sponsored a bill that would put into law a version of what is known as the "Castle Doctrine," or "Stand Your Ground."

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This defines the right of homeowners to not only shoot an intruder in self defense, but the right to shoot them if they believe "in good faith" the situation could lead to bodily harm.

The bill would also extend those rights to other places outside of the home, such as vehicles, SUV's, yards or tents.

Currently Minnesota citizens are required to attempt retreat first before shooting a would-be attacker; under this bill a person is allowed to stand their ground.

"I'm 54 years old," said Hoffman, "If some 21-year old is ready to attack me, I just don't think I stand much of a chance -- I'm not in high school anymore and I certainly can't run like it."

Hoffman, who represents areas throughout Becker, Otter Tail and Wadena Counties, says she has a lot of local support, including some from law enforcement.

"I talked to the Otter Tail County sheriff, and he supports this; I've talked to the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association and worked with them amending some of the wording of the bill until they felt comfortable with it," Hoffman said, adding, "Many in law enforcement think it strengthens the law."

During House debate, opponents of the controversial bill minced no words in the damage they believe a law like this could do.

In a report filed by Capitol Reporter Don Davis, Rep. Joe Mullery, DFL-Minneapolis, said, "If you murder somebody, you have more protections under this than if you shoot a bear or shoot somebody's property --This isn't the Minnesota I grew up in."

Others speaking out against the bill say it would turn everyday citizens into murderers in incidents that do not call for deadly force, and believe the law would essentially be a "license to kill."

Hoffman says although opponents continue to fight hard against the bill, she and other proponents have been able to prove that "bad things happen," but they are the exception, not the rule.

"The stats are pretty low in situations like that," Hoffman said, "Many more people are killed from car accidents each year than are from law abiding citizens who are exercising their right to protect themselves from criminals."

Hoffman says not only will a law like this be a deterrent for unlawful breaking and entering, she also says it would protect people who will do what they need to do to protect their families, regardless of what the law is in that state.

"It probably won't change the outcome of a situation other than giving more rights to the homeowner when something happens."

Hoffman says another goal of the bill is to "fill in some gaps in our criminal background checks and address some unclear, unspecified statues."

"I don't believe police should be able to confiscate your weapons during a time of emergency like during Hurricane Katrina," Hoffman pointed out, "That hasn't been tested in Minnesota, but a lot of the statues we want put in there are preemptive -- to let law enforcement know that we law abiding citizens are not the ones they have to worry about."

Hoffman includes herself in that statement because she took a class and is a conceal and carry permit holder.

"We are thoughtful gun owners through training and by knowing the law and respecting life."

Hoffman says she has always been a strong Second Amendment advocate and believes it was put there so that people could protect themselves.

"Cops can't be on everybody's corner or street all the time, and criminals go where cops are not. This is why I feel so strongly about this; part of our role in government is public safety, and I want to help protect citizens, not criminals."

Hoffman has gotten some bipartisan support on the bill, as well as what she says is a huge amount of support from the people she represents.

"People in northwest Minnesota and rural areas have been encouraging me so much; I've been talking about this before I ran for this position, during the campaign, and now I really feel like if we get this passed, I will have fulfilled a campaign promise that is very near and dear to my heart."

The bill passed the Minnesota House earlier in the week in a 79-50 vote, and now goes to the Senate floor.

If it's passed there, it's placed on Governor Dayton's desk.

"And I have video of him saying he supports the Castle Doctrine," Hoffman said, "So I really hope he stands by his word."

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