Bill proposed to strengthen right to use deadly force against intruders

CARSON CITY — A state lawmaker wants Nevada to adopt a legal doctrine strengthening a homeowner’s right to use deadly force to protect someone’s life from an intruder.

A bill draft request to implement the “castle doctrine” was submitted for the 2009 legislative session by Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas.

The castle doctrine has some variations, but essentially says that someone attacked in his home can use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect his or another person’s life without any duty to retreat from the attacker.

It clarifies that a homeowner does not have a duty to retreat in the face of a robbery or break-in.

At least 15 states, including Arizona, have adopted the doctrine in the past few years.

“I support the old philosophy that a man’s home is his castle and people should not invade it with impunity,” Mortenson said Monday. “We’ve moved so much in the direction of helping the invader that I think we need to go a little bit in the other direction.”

Mortenson’s request was one of several new measures listed by the Legislature’s Web site on Monday.

The request comes just as a poll conducted for the Review-Journal was released showing that 14 percent of Nevadans view the state’s gun control laws as too strict, 41 percent say they are not strict enough, and 38 percent view them as adequate. The remainder were not sure.

Mortenson said he keeps weapons in his home but does not have a concealed weapons permit.

No specific incident prompted the bill request, but the lawmaker noted a recent rash of burglaries in his neighborhood.

“It just seems to me the homeowner is at a disadvantage if he is invaded and he’s impeded by the thought that if he protects himself, he may end up in jail for the rest of his life,” Mortenson said.

If potential burglars or robbers know they might be confronted with an armed homeowner, the law might serve as a little bit of a deterrent, he said.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900.

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