Alaska's Stand Your Ground law

Alaskans join the debate after the law's recent amendment.

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by Michele White

ANCHORAGE -      In light of the recent emotion evoked in the national debate about state laws known as "Stand Your Ground" laws, there is mixed reaction among Alaskans. 

The governor on June 20th signed into law House Bill 24, which added one justification for the use of deadly force in cases of self-defense.

The bill the legislature passed amended an already existing Alaska statute that provided justifications for the use of deadly force to defend oneself.
 

The law says that a person may not use deadly force if he or she knows that,  "with complete personal safety," he or she can avoid the need to use deadly force by leaving the area of the encounter.

According to the law, leaving such an encounter is not required for certain exceptions.

The recent amendment adds one more -- if a person needs to defend himself or herself "in any other place where the person has a right to be." 

That change concerns Linda Mccool.

"I think the way the new law is written, criminals could actually claim that they were standing their ground in violent situations and not be prosecuted to the full extent of the law for their criminal activities."

Darrion Mikell sees both sides of the issue, but, ultimately, he says, "To defend yourself and to protect yourself, I'm very much with it.  If you have to defend yourself anywhere, at home, you know, a company, walking on the trail, I'm with it. I am."

Most of the people we talked to admitted that the current national debate about Stand Your Ground laws has influenced them.

The existing law already provides other exceptions for not leaving the area and using deadly force.

Those include: if a person is threatened in his or her own home or place of residence, as a guest in another home, as a peace officer acting within the scope and authority of his or her employment, in a building where a person works in the ordinary course of the person's employment, or protecting one's child or a member of one's household.   

According to Pro Publica, a web site specializing in investigative journalism, Alaska is one of 24 states that have Stand Your Ground laws.