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Wisconsin wasn’t the only place gun rights were expanding yesterday. The Pennsylvania Senate voted to broaden the state’s castle doctrine law beyond the moats and drawbridges. Pennsy gun owners now have the legal right to defend themselves anywhere they have a legal right to be. And they did it with a damned-near unanimous vote of 45-5. The House had passed the bill earlier and Governor Tom Corbett has promised to sign it…

The bill also removes the requirement that an individual try to retreat before using a gun to defend himself. It’s not always possible. Or safe. And turning your back on someone pointing a gun on you is generally frowned upon by self defense experts. Crazy, huh?

Shockingly, the usual Keystone State suspects (chiefs of police, big city mayors, gun-grabbers, yadda, yadda, yadda) wasted no time raising the specter of Dodge City-style shootouts when the law takes effect. “This is going to be dangerous for Pennsylvanians,” said Max Nacheman, executive director of CeaseFirePA, a gun-control group. “This creates more situations in which violence is an alternative.” Say it ain’t so.

Bucks County district attorney David Heckler employed a little more creativity, warning of criminals going free because of the rights expansion. “…I think in an urban environment, where there are lots of people carrying firearms on the street, it may well mean that some people who should be convicted of murder end up walking.”

Try not to snicker (much) when you read Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams’s comment that, “this law is not necessary because current law respects and protects those lawfully exercising their right to self-defense.” Unless the Philly PD is involved, that is.

Like the progress made in Wisconsin yesterday, the Pennsylvania law was the result of years of effort. Former Governor Ed Rendell vetoed he same provision only last year despite bipartisan support. But the Governor’s office and a number of Assembly seats moved from the D to the R column last fall. Again, elections have consequences.

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  1. NC is currently awaiting the governor’s vote on an omnibus gun-rights bill (H650) which will include Castle Doctrine. While Gov. Perdue is a (D), she also likes to tout that she’s a life-long NRA member and is largely pro-gun. Fingers crossed.

  2. Don’t forget the most important part of this law, that the perpetrator and their family cannot bring a civil suit against you for injury or wrongful death. Nothing like legally defending yourself and then being bankrupted in court because of our messed up judicial system that seems to favor criminals.

  3. I don’t think this bill is all that we hope it is. A local libertarian lawyer (not an oxymoron) has said on facebook “Don’t fall for the claims that Castle Doctrine is coming to PA.. The bill is watered down n actually may give you less rights in ur home“. I asked for details but haven’t received a response yet.

  4. Next step: Let me carry on campus Corbett!
    (@ Brad – I also appreciate the fine finesse of appropriate alliteration)

  5. Of course, REAL “castle doctrine” would include complete civil and criminal immunity, along with punitive damages (and attorney fees) awarded against plaintiffs* OR prosecutors** who ignore the doctrine.

    *jointly and severally with any attorneys they retain.


  6. I have a question and this site might be able to help.
    Are there any recent cases where the Castle Doctrine, as enacted in PA, would have made a difference? Any homeowner who used a gun against an intruder and was subsequently punished for the action?
    Involved in a debate at work and haven’t had any luck finding examples.


    • You might check the NRA’s Rifleman, they have defensive weapons use cases every month in the magazine. I noticed on the picture for this post that there is a website. I was looking at it hard because it would make a cool t shirt.

  7. I’ll be honest — if I shoot an intruder in my home in Philly, the cops will *never* know about it. There is no incentive for me to do it any other way.

  8. In terms of liability, I bought a little extra insurance. I bought these Castle Law Enforced Here and Nothing Inside Is Worth Dying For yard signs posted in my yard a couple of years ago and then got them for everyone in my family. I live next door to a sheriff who loved them enough that he put one in his yard and then a cop with our PD actually stopped by my house to find out where I got them so he could get some. Like 99.999% of people, I’d prefer NOT to shoot someone but if they break in, castle doctrine or not, I’m protecting my family first. I got them direct at and they make stickers for windows too. FYI

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