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Gun Advocates Want Change To Illinois Self-Defense Laws

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Award-winning Chicago journalist Dave Savini serves as investigative...
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(CBS) — Concealed carry in Illinois will mean more people with guns who can protect themselves — but self defense laws have not yet changed. Using a gun to protect yourself, could still land you in jail.

Some states have “stand your ground” or “castle doctrine” laws — defining when a person can use self defense. Illinois has neither.

Outraged crime victims tell CBS 2′s Dave Savini their story.

Homer “Tank” Wright describes the moment he confronted the intruder who broke into his home and business with a series of loud noises to simulate the shooting, “Pow, pow, they went through the door and when he jumped up in the window to go out.”

At 80-years-old, Tank Wright shot the intruder in the leg after the man broke into Wright’s Englewood property which includes the building that houses his home and a tavern he owns.

“If I hadn’t had a gun, I’d probably been dead just that simple and they want to put me in jail”, says Wright who was charged and jailed for unlawful use of a weapon.

Wright says he supports a law that would give homeowners and business owners the right to stand their ground and use a weapon if need be against intruders without fear of prosecution.

Richard Niemic shot at a man last year, defending himself during a break-in at his Naperville home.

“He was there and I came to here. This is where I was at…so to defend myself, I start shooting to the left of him.” Niemic also says his intruder fled so he doesn’t know if any of his bullets struck the man and Niemic was not criminally charged for what he says was his right to defend his home.

“You’re able to defend yourself in your home”, says State Representative Dennis Reboletti. The Republican from the 45th District is also a former prosecutor. He says deadly force usually can be used if you are about to become the victim of deadly force.

But without set law it is all about prosecutorial discretion.

“This individual is coming at me and I only have a split second to make decisions, the problem is Dave is that they could still be criminally prosecuted depending on what the state’s attorney decides”, says Reboletti.

Richard Niemic agrees that a new law needs to be passed giving homeowners immunity in court if they fire on an assailant. He would like to see a definitive law rather than leaving it up to prosecutor to decide who they want to charge, “It gives prosecutors too much power.”

Now that there is a conceal carry law Reboletti is looking at creating a law better defining when self defense can be used currently he says, “If somebody strikes you with their fist, you could strike them back to defend yourself” but he says shooting that person could land you in jail.

How to react is not always easy says Niemiec and Wright.

Each says he only had a second to evaluate the threat level and defend himself.

Wright says he was in fear after being a victim of other break ins and even being held at gunpoint in the past so he acted quickly and says he would have kept shooting at his intruder but he ran out of bullets,”I would’ve killed him.”

Wright was arrested because an old criminal case meant he wasn’t supposed to have a gun. The charge was later dropped.

State Representative Reboletti says he is looking at writing new legislation to help define self-defense laws — and take away some discretion from prosecutors.

Anyone applying for a conceal carry permit will learn about self-defense as part of mandatory training.

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