Under fire, legislator pulls retreat bill

Rep. Sherry Appleton says any attempt to clarify Stand Your Ground law in Washington would have to begin with broader understanding about the reasons for a change.
Rep. Sherry Appleton

Rep. Sherry Appleton


After a flood of angry, sometimes-belligerent calls and emails, Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, said she has withdrawn a bill she sponsored adding a retreat clause to the state's self-defense law.

The calls came Monday following a Jan. 4 Crosscut story on the bill. Appleton said staff from her office called her, upset over the number of angry, vaguely threatening calls they had received over the phone during the day. The same day, Appleton said, she received a large number of negative emails that included personal attacks and veiled threats.

"These people when it comes to guns, they can be really threatening," Appleton said. "People like that, you can't talk to. I mean, it was shocking to me."

As a result of the calls, Appleton said she decided to withdraw the bill, HB 1012. Although the bill is still listed for the upcoming session, Appleton said she had asked personally that the bill be be passed over in the agenda.

"For all intents and purposes, this legislation is dead," Appleton said. "It has created such a mountain of hate and discontent." With education and budget issues looming, she added, "I don't want this to distract from those issues."

In addition to adding a duty to retreat in self-defense situations, the bill also would have shortened the list of reasons in which a death would be considered justifiable homicide.

Currently, Washington law allows deadly force to prevent bodily harm in general, as long as it is generally proportional to the threat, said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff at the King County prosecutor's office. That might leave room for killing someone - even if an assailant posed less than a completely lethal threat, Goodhew said.

Appleton's bill would have explicitly removed prevention of property crimes as a justification for using deadly force, and clarified that deadly force would only be justifiable if a person was directly threatened with serious injury.

Appleton said her office notified the Washington State Patrol that generally threatening remarks had been received; her staff didn’t collect phone numbers of any of the individual callers. Some of the remarks involved statements that she would be sorry or that “we will be watching you.”

Even before Christmas, Appleton said, she had received a handful of phone calls in opposition to the bill. Appleton, first elected in 2004, said she had never started getting calls on a bill so soon after it had been submitted, well before the legislature started its session and even before a digest summarizing the proposal had been published.

Most communications, Appleton said, were from people outside her district who misunderstood the bill. Many of the callers thought the bill was some kind of gun control measure, or an attempt to prevent them from protecting their families.

Instead, Appleton said, the bill was an attempt to address a gray area in the law. While she might consider reintroducing the bill next session, Appleton said she won't be doing any more work on it this year.

The law needs to be clarified, Appleton said. "But we have to do it in ways that people understand what we're trying to do."

As to why she had pre-filed such a potentially controversial bill without co-sponsors or partner organizations, Appleton said she hoped to gain both after the first reading of the bill this month.

Tom James has helped cover the 2013 state legislative session for Crosscut through the University of Washington journalism program. He also writes for Crosscut on other subjects. Born in Seattle and raised in Kitsap, Tom worked for the Kitsap Navy News and Central Kitsap Reporter before heading to the UW for a double-major in journalism and economics, which he hopes to finish in 2014.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 7:04 a.m. Inappropriate

So if you call or write nasty, "angry, vaguely threatening" phone calls, letters and/or emails to your lawmakers they will not make laws you don't like. Bizarre in the extreme!

JamesD

Posted Sat, Jan 12, 1:17 p.m. Inappropriate

I love how she plays the victim card. "It has created a mountain of hate and discontent," she says.

Well, yes, Sherry, if you attempt to put the State of Washington directly on the side of home invaders and burglars, you can damned well expect a mountain to fall on you. Do us all a favor and resign, lady. You're in the wrong job.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 9:34 a.m. Inappropriate

Appleton's bill, and more importantly, the ideology behind it, is downright reprehensible for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with guns.

It has everything to do with a kindergarden attitude toward society and government. In kindergarden the teacher wants to keep "peace" at all costs. "Peace" in that context, being the absence of immediate violence. Justice is never a considerartion in kindergarden. When confronted by a threat in kindergarden, one is supposed to run away and tell the teacher, the teacher being the only legitmate source of violence in that micro-society.

Appleton's attitude is the ultimate in Mommy State.

Goforride

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 7:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Spot on and well put.

Djinn

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 12:20 p.m. Inappropriate

It's extremely disheartening that Rep. Appleton would back down so quickly and easily after receiving hostile messages. Politics ain't bean bag, and if this kind of thing causes her to give up on legitimate and needed legislation perhaps she should consider making way for someone else who won't be so easily deterred.

Posted Fri, Jan 11, 7:55 p.m. Inappropriate

"But we have to do it in ways that people understand what we're trying to do."

But the people did understand what Appleton was trying to do, she was trying to make criminals out of homeowners and let the bad guys do as they please. It's good business for lawyers, cops, judges, and juries, but really crappy for the victims. Just imagine you're being robbed and you decide to take action. Your action is worse in Appleton's mind then whatever the bad guy was doing.

Djinn

Posted Sat, Jan 12, midnight Inappropriate

It was a stupid proposal from a stupid woman who has no business in any legislature, no matter how inconsequential it might be. Her bill would have required that someone's life be in danger before being allowed to use lethal force. Who knew that Sherry Appleton and Washington's "progressives" would put themselves on the side of home invasion rapists? Her bill would have required an armed homeowner to stand aside while invaders robbed them and trashed their home. Who knew that Sherry Applegate decided she'd lead a "progressive" lobbying effort for Washington State's burglars?

The question that ought to be asked is this: What in hell caused Rep. Sherry Applegate to put herself firmly on the side of the criminal element against the law abiding citizens who pay her salary? I hope this irresponsible woman is defeated in her next run for office. She is unqualified to hold a position of trust in this state.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Oct 8, 3:10 p.m. Inappropriate

The state of America now is to assume the worse in people. Appleton’s reason for writing the bill was to clarify the law. Too bad so many people jumped to the conclusion that she was trying to change gun control laws. The laws revolving around personal protection are too vague. We have seen that very issue in this country and it caused riots in cities over a man protecting himself.

lupel

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