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Little Falls case raises 'castle doctrine' questions

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The Little Falls, Minn., case in which a man fatally shot two teens who had invaded his home has raised questions about the rights of homeowners in the use of guns to defend themselves and property.

Minnesota law allows citizens to use deadly force in self-defense, but there is no immunity for people who kill intruders in their homes, KARE 11 reports.

Saint Louis County Attorney Mark Rubin told WDIO that state law allows people to stand their ground, in their home, and approach conflict with deadly force, if necessary. That's only if the victim – and ultimately, a jury – reasonably believes the victim could be greatly harmed or killed, WDIO reports.

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Legislature debated a "castle doctrine" defense bill. The proposal was backed by gun-rights groups and opposed by Minnesota's law-enforcement organizations. It would have broadened the legal justification for citizens who use deadly force when threatened, the Star Tribune reported. But Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill in May.

In Little Falls, Byron David Smith, 64, has been charged with second-degree murder. He told investigators he shot two teens as they came down the stairs to his basement on Thanksgiving Day. He said he first wounded, and then fatally shot them, according to the criminal complaint.

Morrison County authorities say Byron's actions amount to cold-blooded executions, not self-defense, the Star Tribune reports.

KARE 11 has more on how far homeowners can go to protect themselves:

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