A running gag in the classic comedy Raising Arizona is that just about everybody in the vicinity of Tempe is packing heat -- even the pimple-faced kid at the convenience store, who whips out a Dirty Harry special and starts blasting away at stickup man Nicholas Cage. But it's no joke that statehouse Republicans would like to extend the sanctions offered by Colorado's "Make My Day" law to allow citizens to use deadly force to defend their businesses as well as their homes.
The current law, which dates back to 1985 and has been the subject of considerable tweaking and controversy, allows homeowners to use just about any degree of force, short of nuclear warheads, to defend hearth and home from intruders. But it's long been a quest of some lawmakers to extend the same protection to businesses. The latest version of that dream, House Bill 12-1088, also known as the "Make My Day Better" law, advanced out of committee yesterday on a 6-5 party-line vote.
The bill proposes that any business owner, manager or employee is "justified in using any degree of physical force, including deadly physical force," against any trespasser, provided the business defender has a "reasonable belief" that the person is committing a crime, about to commit a crime, or might use physical force -- "no matter how slight" -- against anyone on the premises. The owner/manager/employee who acts in such fashion would be immune from criminal prosecution and civil liability for said actions.
That may sound dandy if you're dealing with, say, a crazed meth-head with a hair-trigger temper (and gun) who's looking for cash and doesn't care who gets hurt. But it also makes it open season on vandals, taggers, urban spelunkers -- a whole crew of petty criminals and delinquents who may be highly stupid but hardly dangerous. Not to mention the ex-girlfriend who shows up at work to slap her fickle boyfriend, thereby exerting physical force, "no matter how slight."
Bill sponsor Rep. Chris Holbert insists that 12-1088 "isn't a blanket coverage to do bad things" -- which, as this account details, has brought the usual criticisms about a "license to kill" from lawmakers on the Democrats' side of the aisle, including Claire Levy.
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It will be interesting to see how prosecutors and law enforcement officials weigh in on this one. Regardless of the outcome, it's advisable to do your Huggies shopping with cash, not pistols. That way you don't have to wear pantyhose on your head, like this guy:
More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Azura Lakin: Make My Day law means no charges for killing Shaun Cassidy with bottle."