A new Missouri bill would effectively grant killers immunity if they claim self-defense, The Washington Post reports.
Republican state Sen. Eric Burlison introduced a bill that would change the state’s self-defense laws.
The current law allows people to use force to protect themselves if they “reasonably believed physical or deadly force was necessary to protect him or herself or a third person.”
Burlison’s Senate Bill 666 would instead put the burden of proof on prosecutors to present “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant was not motivated by self-defense.
The bill states 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” unless the force was directed at a law enforcement officer.
Police would be prohibited from arresting the person unless there is “probable cause that the force that was used or threatened was unlawful.”
The bill, Burlison said, would protect “law-abiding Missourians whose only quote-unquote crime is that they were trying to defend themselves and/or their family members.”
Law enforcement groups oppose:
The Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Missouri Sheriffs United, the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police and the St. Louis Police Officers Association all came out against the proposal.
Prosecutors said in a statement the bill would effectively “make murder legal.”
St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Lohmar told the Post the bill “changes the nature of self-defense claims” and establishes that “anybody who committed assault or murder and claims they were acting in self-defense is presumably correct and their actions were legal.”
“It would mean that practically in every murder case where you don’t have a witness, all the defendant has to say is that he or she was acting in self-defense to get away with it,” he said. “It also means you are going to have a lot of murderers walking free if this becomes law.”
Mark McCloskey backs:
Mark McCloskey, a Republican Senate candidate who was charged with pointing firearms at Black Lives Matter protesters in 2020, is backing the bill. He said his own experience had “empowered thousands of new gun owners across the country to purchase a firearm and learn how to defend themselves.”
Opponents say the bill would allow people to go “penalty-free for murder.”
“It turns everything that we know about the rule of law as related to murder on its head,” Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel Jr. told the Post, warning that it would “create a culture of death.”