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By a more than 4-1 margin, the state House tonight sent to Gov. Ed Rendell a bill that expands the use of self-defense in Pennsylvania.

Called “stand your ground” legislation, the bill enables people to use lethal force to defend themselves without retreat outside their homes. Currently the law allows those protections within one’s home.

Critics contend it amounts to a law permitting people to”shoot first and ask questions later.”

The bill was approved by a 161-35 vote. Gun groups, many of them from Western Pennsylvania, pushed for the bill’s passage over the past five years.

“Law abiding citizens have a right to protect their property and their families,” said Rep. Michelle Brooks, R-Mercer County.. “We have to send a strong message to criminals that ‘if you break the law we are going to defend ourselves.'”

Rendell on several occasions has said he will have to review the bill before deciding whether to sign or veto it.

The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association opposed the bill. But Rep.Mike Vereb, R-Montgomery County, a former police officer, noted that the Fraternal Order of Police and Pennsylvania State Troopers Association did not oppose the bill.

Source: Brad Bumsted for Pittsburghlive.com.

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By a more than 4-1 margin, the state House tonight sent to Gov. Ed Rendell…