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New Hampshire House votes to repeal "stand your ground" law

by
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who sparked a national uproar by shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager to death, is pictured in this Seminole County, Florida, Sheriff's Office booking photograph taken on April 11, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Seminole County Sheriff's Office/Handout
George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer who sparked a national uproar by shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager to death, is pictured in this Seminole County, Florida, Sheriff's Office booking photograph taken on April 11, 2012. Credit: Reuters/Seminole County Sheriff's Office/Handout

By Jason McLure

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - New Hampshire's Democrat-controlled House of Representatives narrowly voted on Wednesday to repeal a controversial 2011 law that expanded the rights of citizens to use deadly force rather than retreat when they felt threatened.

The National Rifle Association and gun rights supporters had campaigned to defeat the bill repealing the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, arguing the change would embolden criminals and lead to greater violence against women.

The bill passed by a roll call vote of 189-184 after a heated debate. The proposed change may face tougher odds in the state Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Republicans.

If repealed, the state would return to the so-called "castle doctrine" under which there is a duty to retreat from a threatening situation unless it occurs inside a person's home.

So-called Stand Your Ground laws have come under scrutiny in a number of states since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager, by a man who told police he felt threatened by the unarmed 17-year-old. George Zimmerman, the Florida neighborhood watch volunteer who killed Martin, has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the case

Florida and New Hampshire are among more than 20 states that have such laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New Hampshire passed a number of laws loosening control on gun usage in 2011, when Republicans commanded large majorities in both chambers. Since regaining control of the House, Democrats have sought to push back on some of these measures.

The debate on how to regulate ownership of guns, a right protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, has flared in the wake of a mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 27 people dead including 20 young children.

"I ask you to oppose this law for the women in my life, the women that I care about," said Republican state Representative Leon Rideout, during the debate over the bill. "If they do get attacked, I believe they should have all means of defense against their attackers."

Supporters of the New Hampshire bill argued that repealing Stand Your Ground was necessary to reduce the risk that conflicts would end in armed shoot-outs between citizens, and they criticized the role of the NRA.

New Hampshire's 2011 gun control law was passed over the veto of former Democratic Governor John Lynch. The Stand Your Ground portion allows people to use deadly force to protect themselves or another person when threatened anywhere including in situations where they could safely retreat.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Bob Burgdorfer)

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