By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, Article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 13, 2011, I vetoed SB 88, relative to physical force in defense of a person.
In 2006, I vetoed legislation with identical provisions because the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police, the New Hampshire Sheriffs Association, the New Hampshire State Police, representatives of over 40 local law enforcement departments and the former Attorney General warned it would jeopardize public safety. Many of those same organizations and the current Attorney General have asked me to veto this bill because it contains the identical provision governing the use of deadly force. This legislation would permit the use of deadly force anywhere a person has a right to be, even if the person could easily remove himself or herself from an encounter without exposing himself or herself, or anyone else, to danger.
SB 88, like the earlier bill, is a dramatic and unwarranted change in New Hampshire law that would legalize the inappropriate use of deadly force and jeopardize public safety.
"The current law governing the use of deadly force in self-defense establishes a careful balance between the right to use deadly force in self-defense on the one side, and the sanctity of human life and the safety of innocent members of the public, on the other," wrote the New Hampshire Association of Chiefs of Police and the New Hampshire Sheriffs Association. "SB 88 would dramatically alter that balance and increase the potential for deadly encounters erupting in public places."
There are times when deadly force may be the only alternative, and existing law already makes provisions for those cases. Existing New Hampshire law already allows citizens to stand their ground and use deadly force - in any location - to protect themselves or another person in response to another's use of deadly force or to prevent a kidnapping or sexual assault no matter where those offenses take place. Current law also allows citizens to use deadly force to protect themselves against an intruder in their own home, regardless of whether the intruder has used deadly force. And current law puts the burden on the state to disprove beyond reasonable doubt claims of self-defense in other cases.
SB 88 would unleash the potential for increasing deadly violence in our communities. It would allow the use of deadly force on street corners, in shopping malls, public parks, and in retail stores. Drug dealers and other felons who brandish weapons will be further emboldened to use their weapons, while prosecution of those criminals will be made more difficult because of this bill's expansion of the right to use deadly force.
Given that the current law is working well and is widely supported by law enforcement, I have vetoed SB 88.
SB 88 also contains changes to the state's criminal law on mandatory minimum sentences for offenses involving a firearm, as well as changes to the definition of "non-deadly force. I am prepared to sign these provisions into law if they are subsequently enacted in separate legislation.