A bill that would allow Wyoming residents to defend themselves in public with deadly force without first retreating has passed the Wyoming House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 8-1.

Rep. Charles Pelkey [D-Albany County] was the lone vote against the bill in committee.

However, the original version of House Bill 168 was changed to that of a Senate version of the same legislation, Senate File 71.

The committee heard testimony both for and against the bill. Beth Howard of ''Moms Demand Action On Gun Sense In America" told the committee research shows ''stand your ground'' laws '"encourage armed vigilantism and are associated with increased homicides."

She said the bill would encourage people to ''shoot to kill even if there is a safe alternative."

Another speaker decried the bill as racist and said it would put minority populations, including Latinos, at increased risk of being shot.

But the bill's primary House sponsor, Rep. Tim Salazar (R-Fremont County), strongly disputed the idea that Latinos would become targets if ''stand your ground" becomes law.

He pointed out that he is a Hispanic ''so I know all about what some individuals face in regard to prejudice." But he said the bill would strengthen the ability of members of minority groups to defend themselves against hateful actions caused by prejudice.

He said the bill will, in fact, improve the security of all Wyoming residents in the face of a violent attack.

The committee vote clears the way for the bill to head to the house floor, where it faces three readings which will allow the opportunity to amend or defeat the bill. A third and decisive vote will then be held on the bill in the house.

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