Changing Italy's Legitimate Defense Law: A Move Towards Legitimate Killing?

An amendment to the law on legitimate defense is now before the Italian Senate for approval.
The Italian government recently approved an amendment to the law on legitimate defense, which now needs to be evaluated and approved by the Senate in order to become law. Italian NGO Antigone has raised concerns on the content of the proposal and the worrisome consequence of its application in terms of public security.

Shaping legitimate defense in Italy

Legitimate defense has always been a topic of discussion in Italian politics: the original law was based on a rational principle of proportionality between the attacker and his victim.

This law was amended in 2006, when a bill, supported by Lega Nord, one of Italy's main center-right parties, was proposed that would make it legitimate to use a legally owned gun to protect person or property from attackers or burglars, at home or in the workplace. But this amendment prevented any kind of defense from being legitimate if the self-defense was used against someone who is not intending to do harm.

The latest bill approved in Parliament is a further step towards the decriminalization of the use of guns for legitimate defense, a widens the scope of scenarios in which a person may kill another and not face criminal charges. It states that defense is legitimate with any kind of weapon when performed at night, whether the violence targets people or property.

In addition to this, any person who uses deadly force in a situation where life, property or personal freedoms are threatened will not face prosecution or even an investigation. In a similar way, the reaction of someone acting under a serious psychological upset would be considered a priori justified and not subject to any accusation of disproportionate defense.

Creating a climate of insecurity

This law creates a worrisome scenery. As Antigone points out, in a time when crimes against persons are decreasing and the murder rate is at an all-time low, sacrificing the rule of proportionality to allow people to exercise any sort of homemade defense seriously risks increasing the homicide rate and decreasing people's security.

The legitimization of defense in such a wide scope, coupled with the absence, in some circumstances, of any type of charge against the defendant, risks driving Italy into a state of excessive decriminalization and de-responsibilization, similar to the situation in some states of the USA, which is nothing to aspire to.

It is far too easy to find justification claiming to have been subjected to a psychological upset, and too difficult to prove if that is true or not.

The approval of this law was driven by populist political impulses that picture a security threat that reality simply does not support. On the contrary, such a law will help create a climate of insecurity, where people are permitted to make seek justice on their own.

Antigone therefore urges the Senate to reconsider the amendment and deny its approval to these conditions, through a petition already signed by many, hoping that the government will stop its proceeding backwards and go back on the way of progress and achievement of civil rights.