Stand-your-ground bill, oth­ers de­bated

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Jim Siegel jsiegel@dis­patch.com @phront­page

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.

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