BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed a bill on Tuesday, April 20, that will significantly lower the legal bar for using deadly force in self-defense. The new law will go into effect on Aug. 1.

The so-called "stand-your-ground" legislation expands the existing "castle" law that permits the use of deadly force at one's home or workplace but requires an effort to escape the attacker in public places unless one's life is in danger. The new law eliminates the "duty to retreat" and allows the use of deadly force to prevent a violent felony in public or any other place a person is legally permitted to be.

North Dakotans are already legally justified under state law in using deadly force if they cannot escape a life-threatening attack.

Burgum celebrated the signing of the bill Tuesday, April 20, as an advancement of gun rights in the state.

"Over half of U.S. states have 'stand your ground' laws, and now, with HB 1498 signed, so does North Dakota," Burgum said on Twitter. "We'll always protect our 2nd Amendment rights and our state's constitutional right 'to keep and bear arms for the defense of their person, family, property, and the state.'"

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Laura Ramirez talks about self-defense and gun safety with real estate agents on Sept. 18, 2018, in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
Laura Ramirez talks about self-defense and gun safety with real estate agents on Sept. 18, 2018, in Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

Supporters of the bill, sponsored by West Fargo Republican Rep. Ben Koppelman, say it promotes victims' rights to protect themselves from attackers and violent criminals in public. The legislation is a favorite of gun rights advocacy groups like the National Rifle Association, which called on Burgum to sign the bill.

Opponents of the legislation argue it opens the door to false claims of self-defense by bad actors who were never in danger of serious harm. Others say similar laws implemented elsewhere have proven to negatively impact people of color.

The state House of Representatives narrowly voted down a "stand-your-ground" bill in 2019, but at least 25 states, including Montana and South Dakota, already have laws that allow the use of deadly force before attempting to retreat, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Minnesota does not have a "stand-your-ground" law and requires that people in danger attempt to retreat before using deadly force.