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State Senator Pat Stefano Introduces Legislation To Expand Pennsylvania's Castle Doctrine Law

By: Erika Stanish

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - State Senator Pat Stefano (R-32) is pushing to expand Pennsylvania's Castle Doctrine law.

Castle Doctrine governs how far a person can go to defend their property.

Stefano introduced new legislation Thursday that would allow Pennsylvanians to use self-defense beyond their home to their property line.

"Forcing law-abiding Pennsylvanians to wait to defend their loved ones until a criminal enters their home could result in the unnecessary loss of innocent life – a tragedy made worse because it could have been prevented," Sen. Stefano said. "The right to defend oneself should not be limited, as it is in the current weaker standard, based on whether individuals are inside their dwelling or on their property."

Stefano said the expansion to the law would provide citizens with the ability to, "better protect themselves, their family, and their property."

The president of Firearms Owners Against Violent Crime, Kim Stolfer, told KDKA the extension in self-defense protections is "absolutely essential."

"What we're trying to do is make sure Pennsylvanians have options in self-defense," Stolfer said.

According to a news release, this statute was last updated in 2011 to extend the principles of Castle Doctrine to extend the right of self-defense in places where the actor has the right to be if they believe themselves to be in danger of death, serious bodily injury, kidnapping, or rape.

"You see what's happening around us in society and you see how police are basically being defunded and thrown to the waste side. The collateral damage in all of this, nobody is really taking into account... the law-abiding citizens are going to be left defenseless or put in harm's way because of it," Stolfer said.

But some gun safety organizations told KDKA they have concerns.

"Whether your property line is 10 feet from your front door or half a mile away, you would be allowed to shoot and kill someone. If you were worried about your safety, rather than taking the reasonable stance of locking your door and calling the police, which will much more likely protect your life and save other people's lives," Adam Garber said, executive director of CEASEFIRE, PA. "But what this does is extend the scope so significantly and that it encourages aggressive behavior and leads to more violence which we've seen in other communities with expanded stand your ground laws."

Garber said this legislation would likely encourage more violence and unnecessary aggressive behavior.

"I think that what we know is these kinds of Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground laws, when expanded, lead to more community-level violence and even pose a risk to the owners for shooting a loved one or someone else in their family," Garber said.

Garber said Sen. Stefano should be looking at policies to increase public safety rather than finding ways to put the community at risk.

The bill is expected to be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee for review.

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