‘Stand your ground’ bill rouses foes
By Jim Siegel and Randy Ludlow THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
With the Trayvon Martin shooting still fresh in their minds, opponents of an effort to make Ohio the newest “stand your ground” state are circulating petitions and preparing for a fight when state lawmakers return.
Members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus have been hosting rallies and circulating petitions at churches and businesses, looking to create grassroots opposition to House Bill 203, a gun bill that includes a “stand your ground” provision.
- County prosecutors and a variety of law-enforcement groups also oppose the provision, which would eliminate an Ohio law requiring a person to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense, so long as the person is carrying a firearm lawfully and is in a place where he or she has the right to be.
“We do not oppose the Second Amendment and the right to defend yourself,” said Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus. “But at the same time, we certainly have concerns with ‘stand your ground’ provisions that would allow something like what happened in Florida.
- “We don’t want folks who aren’t trained to follow innocent people around and, because of their own internal issues, decide they have the right to engage and shoot another individual.”
At least 22 states have “stand your ground” laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“When an Ohio citizen is in peril of serious bodily harm or even death at the hands of an attacker, his or her first duty should be self-defense, not a duty to retreat and hope for the best,” Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, the bill sponsor, said in a statement. “The fact is that people who are confronted with life-threatening attacks often face a split-second decision, and Ohioans deserve to have clear laws that do not undermine our natural right to defend ourselves.”
Fifteen House Republicans have signed on to the bill, which had one committee hearing before the summer recess. Lawmakers return after Labor Day.
“Stand your ground” laws have come under scrutiny nationwide since George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in the shooting of Martin, 17. Zimmerman’s defense did not use Florida’s “stand your ground” law, but the judge cited it in her jury instructions.
- Ohio police, police chiefs and prosecutors oppose the proposed change in law.
“If a person has the opportunity and can safely retreat to avoid using deadly force, they ought to do it,” said John Murphy, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.
Prosecutors properly assess self-defense claims involving the use of force in considering whether to file charges, “and I don’t think you, or I, or anyone else has heard of an epidemic of inappropriate charges,” Murphy said.
Chief Robert Oppenheimer of Perry Township Police in Franklin County, who is chairman of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police legislative committee, said there is no need for a change.
“It’s sometimes more prudent to back away than charge forward. If you have (stand your ground), you are more apt to challenge each other. Nobody backs down, and it ends up with somebody getting hurt,” he said. “What happened in Florida shouldn’t have happened…. The jury got it right, but I don’t think we want that in Ohio.”
Toby Hoover, executive director of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, said the new push is part of the gun lobby’s incremental efforts to expand the rights of gun owners and concealed-carry permit holders to use firearms for self-defense with less scrutiny.
House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard, D-Columbus, said, “We’re creating a civilian police department here, and I don’t think that’s required.”
But Buckeye Firearms Association official Sean Maloney, a criminal-defense lawyer from Butler County, said the bill would not make a substantial change in law.
“It’s basically the same — you can’t use lethal force in either case unless you fear serious bodily injury or death. This only removes the perceived duty (to retreat) so you don’t have to think once or twice about running,” he said.
Michael Weinman, director of governmental affairs for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police, said deadly force should be a last option, not first. “The fear is this will embolden people. Instead of allowing for a cool-down period, they immediately react to whatever upset them.”
Dispatch Public Affairs Editor Darrel Rowland contributed to this story. firstname.lastname@example.org
(This isn’t newsworthy; this isn’t humorous or even funny in any way; this is an affront of major proportion to the citizens of Ohio. After the malicious tragedy of Florida, the family-oriented people of Ohio will never stand for this ungodly intrusion into our lives — which could only be dreamed up by those of the lobbyists for the NRA. STAND DOWN NOW! Jan)