Ohio lawmakers want to expand the circumstances in which people can kill to defend themselves in Ohio, as well as make it easier for people from other states to legally carry concealed handguns here.
House Bill 203 would introduce a “stand your ground” law in Ohio, which would allow people to use deadly force to defend themselves with no duty to retreat first, as long as they think their life is in danger, and are in a place where they are legally allowed to be.
Ohio’s self-defense law since 2008 has followed the more limited “castle doctrine,” which means people only get the “no duty to retreat” benefit of the doubt if they are defending themselves against an intruder in their home, vehicle, or while in an immediate family member’s vehicle.
Twenty-one states, including Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, have “stand your ground” laws, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
House Bill 203, sponsored by State Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, would also:
- Eliminate the 12-hour training requirement for Ohioans seeking concealed carry licenses;
- Eliminate a requirement that says Ohio can only recognize another state’s CCW licenses if the other state’s laws for getting a license are substantially like Ohio’s;
- Make Ohio automatically recognize CCW licenses issued by other states that already recognize Ohio’s;
- Allow non-Ohioans to obtain Ohio CCW licenses;
- Add an extra criminal background check on CCW applicants;
- Change what kinds of crimes and other legal circumstances disqualify someone from obtaining an Ohio CCW license.
The controversy behind stand your ground was highlighted following last year’s shooting death of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator whose murder trial began this week, has not cited the law as part of his defense after he allegedly shot and killed Martin. But the furor surrounding the case led Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott to form a task force to review the law, which the state pioneered in 2005.
The task force did not recommend any changes.
Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said “stand your ground” in Ohio would offer legal protection to people who are forced to protect themselves in a public place.
“The only thing it’s stating is if in fact someone is close enough to you, has the ability to kill you and intends to kill you, you can defend your life. You don’t have to play other games first,” he said.
Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said bringing stand your ground to Ohio would result in more shooting deaths.
“You ought to be accountable. Your first thought should be to not shoot at somebody. Of course if that doesn’t work, of course you ought to defend yourself, but the first thing you should do is try to get away,” Hoover said.
John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl expressed similar concerns.
“We’re interested in minimizing violence, and trying to head off confrontations rather than accommodate them or condone them,” Murphy said. “We think the law ought to encourage people to take a way out if they can do so.”
“Do we really want to encourage through legislation a curtailment of that right to life, which I think this legislation would do, if someone could walk away from a situation and not use deadly force?” Biehl said.
The Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association has not yet taken a position on the bill. A representative of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police did not return a message seeking comment.
Many of the other aspects of the bill, including removing the 12-hour training requirement for CCW applicants and the extra background check, would in effect remove roadblocks that prevent Ohio from signing mutual agreements in which both states recognize the other’s CCW licenses.
Many states, including Ohio, only sign those mutual agreements if both states’ rules for obtaining a CCW license are equally stringent.
Johnson did not respond to a request for comment for this story. But he told the Ohio House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee committee last week that his bill would “restore areas where the Second Amendment has been infringed” and “bring more coherence” to gun laws, according to a copy of his written testimony.
The bill is co-sponsored by 15 Republican house members, including state Reps. Peter Beck, of Mason, Tim Derickson, of Butler County, Mike Henne, of Clayton, Ron Maag, of Lebanon and Wes Retherford, of Middletown.
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