EU Watch

'Passport to Murder': Changing Self-Defense Law Would Endanger Italians

A petition has been launched to urge members of Italy's Parliament to oppose self-defense legislation they're currently debating.

by Flaminia Delle Cese

A new draft law on self-defense is currently being discussed in the Italian Parliament. Presented by the Lega, an Italian far-right party, this legislative proposal amends a law from 2006 that had been drafted on the basis of a proposal by the same party. The 2006 law had in turn amended a law on self-defense that had come into force in the 1930s - that is, in the fascist era.

The current framework on self-defense in Italy

Self-defense in Italy is currently regulated by Article 52 of the Italian Criminal Code. This provision establishes that those who resort to self-defense, when such a response is needed in the face of a clear threat, cannot be punished. However, the defense must be proportional to the offense.

While the 2006 law amended this provision and increased the possibility to lawfully resort to self-defense (by including the risk of threat), the draft law currently under discussion would widen even more the legal grounds for self-defense in Italy. More specifically, the legislative proposal presented by the Lega aims at making it lawful in any case to react against - and even shoot - anyone who enters one’s private property (whether this is a house, a plot of land, or a shop), regardless of this endangering one’s physical safety.

Why the law shouldn't be amended

Associazione Antigone has repeatedly expressed its concerns over amendments to the self-defense law.

One year ago, the center-left government suggested reforming the law on self-defense. While this suggestion was eventually dropped and no changes were made, Antigone seized that opportunity to express its opposition to the measures proposed by that government.

Antigone’s president, Patrizio Gonnella, expressed his views on self-defense when discussing the issue of security. Firstly, he highlighted the link between the possibility to resort to self-defense and the (potentially increasing) sale of weapons, stressing that a higher number of weapons at the disposal of individuals would entail greater risks in terms of security. Secondly, Gonnella added that political decision-makers have a duty to deconstruct citizens’ fears, instead of supporting them in a dangerous way. Finally, he stressed that the monopoly on the use of force belongs to the state, and not to private individuals.

With respect to the draft law on self-defense that is currently being discussed, Antigone says that it represents a useless, unjust and dangerous amendment to the law on self-defense. This legislative proposal would liberalize armed responses by private individuals, therefore representing a sort of "passport to murder."

As Antigone stressed in the past, provisions on self-defense must always guarantee that the principle of proportionality between the defense and the offense is observed; otherwise, such provisions are unconstitutional. For this reason, the current draft law is unjust, as it puts on equal footing life and private property.

This proposal also entails a risk for the Italian society: while Italy currently has one of the lowest homicide rates among Western democracies, this draft law would encourage the sale of weapons, therefore leading to more “private vendettas” and more deaths. Gonnella adds that the proposal presented by the Lega implies distrust of law enforcement agents and judges, and aims at preventing the judiciary to conduct investigations on those who have allegedly acted on self-defense – regardless of the alleged offender having actually intended to offend.

Last but not least, Antigone notes that in 2006, the law on self-defense was amended by the same party - the Lega - that currently wants to amend it again: this means that either this party committed a mistake back in 2006, or the current draft law is only an act of propaganda that aims at gaining more political support.

Stopping the ‘Far West’

As a result of all the concerns mentioned above, the proposal at issue, instead of "draft law on lawful self-defense," could be referred to as "draft law on unlawful offense." For this reason, Associazione Antigone has launched a petition - which can be signed here - to ask the Parliament to oppose this proposal. Launched on 25 July, the petition has been signed by almost 25,000 people in just over 10 days.

Sign the petition here!

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