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Hoffman not backing down on self-defense bill

Sen. Gretchen Hoffman, R-Vergas, is standing her ground as the sponsor of a self-defense bill gaining opposition and attention around the state.

The Defense of Dwelling and Person Act bill, currently working its way through the Senate, seeks to align Minnesota state self-defense law with 32 states around the country, Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the intent of the bill is to ensure that law-abiding Minnesota residents - and those traveling within state boundaries - have the right to protect themselves in areas outside of their home.

Minnesota is considered a "castle law doctrine" state, which means it allows the use of self-defense for those who feel threatened in their home.

But Hoffman says there are areas outside of the home where people can be threatened, too - like in a yard, tent or camper.

A person currently has the legal obligation to attempt to flee before resorting to self-defense violence in threatening situations.

And while critics have said this could open up a can of worms, due to the subjective nature of determining a real threat, Hoffman said those who have lawfully obtained a permit know the difference.

"If you see someone walking through your yard, you do not have the right to shoot them," she said. "If you're going to own a gun in Minnesota, you better know the law."

The language in the bill regarding what constitutes a real threat is not changing, another point Hoffman makes when defending that portion of the bill.

Another aspect of the bill not gaining as much attention among law enforcement organizations throughout the state is one that stems from Hurricane Katrina.

Language in the bill would prevent local authorities from confiscating lawful firearms during times of emergency, as declared by a state's governor.

Hoffman points to Hurricane Katrina as a source of inspiration for this portion of the bill because, in that case, a state of emergency was declared, and firearms were confiscated.

"The worst thing you can do in an emergency is not allow people to protect themselves," she said.

The bill also seeks to change reciprocity standards for firearm permits. The new provision would change state law to honor all outside permits for those visiting the state. Minnesota residents would still be obligated to obtain a Minnesota permit.

Arguments against this provision have come from those concerned that other state laws are looser than Minnesota's.

While that may be the case, Hoffman said the provision would require those carrying weapons in Minnesota under another state's permit to meet Minnesota's law requirements.

Currently, those traveling from North Dakota, for example, are not lawfully allowed to carry their weapon in Minnesota.

In defense of all provisions in the bill, Hoffman makes the claim that people who have gone through the process to lawfully obtain a permit - in any state - are not the people to worry about.

"The bad guys aren't getting the permit," she said "The bad guys are bringing guns in and using them to commit crimes."

Hoffman said the concerns, most recently brought about by law enforcement representatives and attorneys in the metro area, are the same concerns other states faced when attempting to pass similar bills.

"There haven't been the rampant shootings that have been predicted," she said.

A similar bill made its way through the House. Before becoming law, it would need the approval of Gov. Mark Dayton. A Senate vote on the bill is expected to take place Thursday.