Stand-your-ground bill, others debated
Ohio’s never-ending stream of gun legislation continued Tuesday with debates over expanding who may carry guns and where they may be carried, and over providing more legal protections when they are used.
Most of the debate in the Senate Judiciary Committee was saved for a stand-your-ground bill that has drawn opposition from county prosecutors and law enforcement for its proposed modification of Ohio’s self-defense law.
To claim self-defense in Ohio, a person has a duty to retreat, if possible, before using force. The bill would eliminate that duty, as long as the person has a legal right to be in that location.
The bill also would shift the burden of proof to the prosecution to prove that criminal defendants did not act in self-defense; under current law, the defendant must prove that he or she properly acted in self-defense when using deadly force.
Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, a former assistant county prosecutor, said of the proposal: “We’re asking the prosecution to prove a negative beyond a reasonable doubt … that a defendant did not act in self-defense, and that’s very difficult to prove, especially in a scenario where a defendant doesn’t take the stand.”
Jim Irvine, president of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said Ohio is the only state that “puts the burden on a crime victim to prove … that they were justified. In every other state, the burden is on the state to prove someone committed a crime.
“Even if this passes, you’re going to have to show that you reasonably believed that the person you used force against had the ability and intent to do you harm.”
Some legislators, including Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls, questioned how other states handle self-defense issues differently than Ohio.
“How in the world can the prosecution present evidence only known to the defendant?” he said. “How are they proving what the defendant knew or didn’t know at the time?”
The provision is part of Senate Bill 180, which also would reduce some concealed-carry firearm violations to minor misdemeanors.
“You’re opening up some doors that really don’t need to be opened up here,” said Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, a retired police officer.
The House passed a bill in 2014 that included a standyour-ground provision, but the Senate declined to approve it.
The Office of the Ohio Public Defender is supporting the bill, arguing that a good prosecutor can show that no reasonable person could believe that a defendant acted in self-defense, regardless of the burden of proof.
Ohio prosecutors are calling it a solution in search of a problem.
“We think current law has served Ohio well and prevented needless deaths,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, adding that it’s “reasonable” for a defendant to have to produce evidence that he or she acted in self-defense.
“I don’t think there’s an outcry in the state for a stand-your-ground bill like this.”
The Judiciary Committee also began hearings on a bill that would allow an off-duty police officer or state Bureau of Criminal Investigation investigator to carry a gun in public venues, including hotels, stores, restaurants, office buildings, sports facilities and amusement parks.
Senate Bill 208 applies to officers who carry a gun in the line of duty.
“The purpose of this bill is to enhance the safety of these public places and provide for a faster response in the case of an activeshooter situation,” said Sen. Lou Terhar, R-Cincinnati. “This bill provides for well-trained individuals to respond to these types of incidents.”
The committee also heard about House Bill 79, which would allow medical members of a SWAT team to carry a gun.