Nashville, TN – Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow residents to use deadly force when protecting their property from looters, thieves, or arsonists.
The bill would amend current law by making deadly force a justifiable action during many instances of protection of property, specifically in order to prevent the “imminent commission of an act of arson, burglary, theft during hours of darkness, robbery, or aggravated robbery,” according to the measure.
Residents would also be justified in using deadly force in order to stop a suspect “from fleeing immediately after committing” such acts, provided the property owner “reasonably believes” the property “cannot be protected or recovered by any other means,” or in cases where using lesser force “would expose the person or a third person to a substantial risk of death or serious bodily injury.”
The use of deadly force to stop trespassers would remain unjustified under the proposed bill.
Reedy said Tennessee residents should not be facing potential criminal charges for protecting their property, and that such instances should be classified as self-defense, Clarksville Now reported.
“Tennesseans must have the right not only to protect their lives but their property,” he told The Tennessee Star.
Reedy said he drafted the bill in the wake of the riots that occurred in downtown Nashville over the summer, during which the courthouse and approximately 30 businesses were damaged.
“Third- and fourth-generation businesses were being destroyed,” he told The Tennessee Star. “Tennesseans should have the right to protect all that.”
As of now (before sunrise) we count 30 businesses and buildings that the protestors (vandals) damaged in our city Saturday night. pic.twitter.com/twIX88auyY
— Metro Nashville PD (@MNPDNashville) May 31, 2020
He modeled the proposed legislation after laws currently in place in Texas.
“The bill is basically mirroring Texas law, but I don’t want Texas law. I want Tennessee law,” Reedy told Clarksville Now.
According to the Tennessee Firearms Association (TFA), many residents didn’t realize they would potentially face criminal charges for protecting their property under the state’s current law.
“The bill actually appears to reflect what a lot of Tennesseans already believe is the law but is not,” the TFA told The Tennessee Star. “The new legislation reflects a heightened interest in the rights of people to protect their homes, businesses, properties and items from thieves, rioters, looters and other criminals.”
TFA Executive Director John Harris said people are tired of having their hands tied when it comes to protecting their own property, WTVF reported.
“I think the last year has raised a lot of questions in Tennessee about whether you can use force or deadly force,” Harris said. “The question is, does the criminal just laugh at them and keep stealing stuff?”
Critics argue the language of the bill is still too vague, WTVF reported.
“To be able to just shoot someone because you thought they were taking your personal property is not where America is or we’ve been in the last hundred years,” legal analyst Nick Leonardo told the news outlet.
Leonardo referred to the bill as “vigilante legislation,” WTVF reported.
Reedy acknowledged the proposed measure is still in its early stages, and said it will be refined over the coming months to better fit the needs of Tennessee residents, Clarksville Now reported.
If signed into law, the change would go into effect on July 1, 2021.