State Watch

Missouri prosecutors say proposed self-defense bill from GOP state lawmaker would ‘make murder legal’

Prosecutors, police officers and local politicians are sounding the alarm about a self-defense bill in Missouri’s Senate, saying the legislation would effectively make murder legal in the state.

The bill is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Eric Burlison and was last discussed at a hearing in the state Senate’s Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

According to SB666: “Under current law, the defendant has the burden to prove he or she reasonably believed physical or deadly force was necessary to protect him or herself or a third person. This act provides that there shall be a presumption of reasonableness that the defendant believed such force was necessary to defend him or herself or a third person.”

The bill further says that any person who “uses or threatens to use force in self-defense is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force,” with the sole exception of using force against a police officer on duty if the person “reasonably knew or should have known that the person was a law enforcement officer.”

More than 30 sheriffs, police departments and prosecutors in Missouri signed a letter against the bill. Law enforcement leaders said the legal process for self-defense laws was already tight and under this bill, “officers would be barred from arresting someone for any violent offense where they claim self-defense.”

The Hill has reached out to Burlison for comment.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Oliver called it the “Make Murder Legal Act” and said it would sow chaos in Missouri, KFVS 12 News reported.

“It was important to come up here and let our senators know that this bill is dangerous to public safety,” he said. “This bill is dangerous to our victims. And we shouldn’t have to go before a judge before we can arrest someone who has killed someone.”

Thirty states have so-called “stand your ground laws” in public places. But Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee are the only states that prevent law enforcement from arresting someone who claims self defense, according to the Giffords Law Center.

Brian Williams, the only Black member of the Missouri Senate’s public safety committee, cited the recent conviction of Greg and Travis McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan in Georgia for killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery during a confrontation in a Brunswick suburb.

“This bill, if this had been in law in the state of Georgia, they would have walked,” Williams said at the hearing, according to the AP.

The bill comes as violence has increased across the state during the pandemic. In 2021, Kansas City recorded 157 homicides, the second highest tally for the state’s largest city. Only 2020 was worse, holding the record at 179 homicides.

Tags Bill Eric Burlison legal murder Missouri Missouri State Senate self defense

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