The new law would make it legitimate to respond with force to robbers or burglars who enter a property, even if this proves fatal. However, it won’t come into force until the Italian Senate also gives it the green light, after the lower house of parliament passed the bill with 225 votes in favour and 166 against.
Under current Italian law, accused parties usually have to show they had reasonable grounds to fear for their own life to avoid a murder charge. Some judges however have also allowed a “legitimate defense” argument based on a pattern of being regularly targeted by criminals.
The amendments would change the requirements for claiming “legitimate defence” by extending them to include any nighttime break-in, or a robbery attempt involving threats or violence to people or things.
But robbery victims would still need to prove “proportionality” between the offense and their defense.
The bill has been in parliament for two years, but came back into the spotlight after an investigation was opened in March into a restaurant owner who shot a burglar dead. The case sparked controversy across Italy and outrage from right-wing politicians in particular.
There was also a strong display of public support for the shooter, with the restaurant in Gugnano near Milan packed with villagers, politicians, and reporters at lunchtime the following day.
Mario Cattaneo, 67, killed the burglar with a single shot from his hunting rifle after hearing intruders breaking into his restaurant during the night. He was placed under investigation for voluntary manslaughter – a crime which carries a minimum prison term of 21 years.