CONCORD, N.H. – Displaying a gun to warn a potential attacker away would not be considered a crime under a bill to soften New Hampshire’s law on deadly force.

The Senate votes Wednesday on the bill that would make it legal to respond to a threat by displaying a gun. It is more limited than an earlier bill that would have expanded the use of deadly force, which was vetoed by Gov. John Lynch in 2006. That proposal would have allowed the use of deadly force in public whenever someone felt threatened.

Lynch’s office was noncommittal about the new version Friday.

“The governor will be reviewing the bill and talking with the attorney general’s office and law enforcement about it,” spokesman Colin Manning said.

Current law requires people in public places to try to retreat to safety before resorting to deadly force in self defense. Deadly force is permitted to protect against certain crimes and when an intruder enters the person’s home.

The Senate Judiciary Committee recommends passing the bill.

Two years ago, lawmakers were presented images of shoot-outs in the street like the old Wild West in deciding to uphold Lynch’s veto of legislation making it easier to use deadly force in public.

Lynch and law enforcement argued they were afraid innocent bystanders would be hurt if people were given more freedom to use guns or other deadly weapons in public.

The bill “would authorize any shopper to instantly shoot and kill a thief who had grabbed or tugged at the shopper’s purse or briefcase, regardless of how many shoppers might be placed in harm’s way by such actions,” Lynch said in his veto message.

Supporters argued that someone confronted by the threat of violence shouldn’t have to decide whether it’s safe to retreat. They also argued that people who acted in self defense shouldn’t have to fear prosecution.


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