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JEFFERSON CITY   •   Guests with permission would be able to use deadly force if they feel threatened, under a bill approved by the Missouri House expanding the “castle doctrine.”

Property owners or renters are already allowed to use deadly force in a house or vehicle in self-defense under a 2007 Missouri law. The measure sponsored by Rep. Joe Don McGaugh, R-Carrollton, extends the legal defense to people who are on the property with permission from the owner.

“If I’m on private property that I don’t own or lease, you have to retreat first... that’s what I’m trying to change,” McGaugh said.

McGaugh compared it to allowing a father-in-law babysitting to use force to protect the family and property.

Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, said the change would lead to more innocent deaths. She cited the case of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old who was shot in Florida. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was cleared of all charges in that case after citing self-defense.

“Does this legislation go even further to allow me to shoot to kill for absolutely no reason?” Newman asked. “Any of these situations could involve your own child, your own teenager walking across someone’s property... I want you to stop and think about the victims.”

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, said he supported the bill but was concerned it might be broader than intended – potentially including someone in a stadium for a baseball game, for example. He said the expansion of the “stand your ground” law was reasonable and that the burden would still be on the person using deadly force to prove they believed they were in danger.

“The jury in Florida made a bad decision,” Roorda said. “The duty remains on the person using deadly force to demonstrate why they acted the way they did.”

The bill passed 122-30 and now moves to the Senate.

(The bill is HB 2126.)

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Marie French is a reporter in the Jefferson City bureau. You can follow her on Twitter @mre545.