The Republican-controlled Ohio House of Representatives has approved a bill that would modify the state’s concealed-weapons law, greatly expanding the circumstances in which Ohioans may shoot to kill. The bill is before a Senate committee, where no action is expected until the lame-duck session after the November election. This unnecessary, risky measure should not reach Gov. John Kasich’s desk.
Roughly 25 other states already have so-called stand-your-ground laws. A report issued this month by a task force commissioned by the American Bar Association recommends that states either repeal or refuse to enact such legislation — that is, if they desire to combat violent crime and reduce overall homicide rates. And that should be the aim of every state legislature, including Ohio’s.
The report concludes that “stand-your-ground” laws, however crafted, obstruct law enforcement, confuse police officers, and adversely affect minorities. It finds that such legislation has failed to deter crime. On the contrary, it has led to a rise in homicides: States with stand-your-ground laws experienced an 8 percent increase in the number of homicides, compared with states without such laws.
“If our aim is to increase criminal justice system costs, increase medical costs, increase racial tension, maintain our high adolescent death rate, and put police officers at greater risk, this is good legislation,” said Jerry Ratcliffe, chairman of the department of criminal justice at Temple University.
Ohio laws already give wide latitude to people to use lethal force to protect themselves. As it stands, Ohioans need not legally retreat when they are in their homes or cars — areas of personal domain to which the U.S. legal tradition and the “castle doctrine” have extended special protections and immunities.
But the House bill would extend immunities, without justification and at great risk, to anywhere a person has a legal right to be. That’s a green light to unwarranted violence and vigilantism.
People often overreact to perceived danger, especially when they must make split-second decisions that they are not trained to make. Simply feeling threatened, even by an unarmed person, should not justify the use of lethal force.
City councils in several Ohio communities, including Toledo, Akron, Dayton, and Cincinnati, oppose the House bill. So do the Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.
Existing laws that govern the use of lethal force for self-protection in this state are more than adequate. There’s no good reason to subject Ohioans to unnecessary risks and dangers by enacting ill-advised legislation that would encourage more people to shoot first.