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Published: Tuesday, 10/29/2013

Ohio lawmaker seeks to broaden self-defense rules in gun measure

Concealed-carry bill amended

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS — Ohioans should not have to prove that they first tried to flee if they fear for their lives and defend themselves with a gun far from their homes, a lawmaker argued Tuesday.

Rep. Terry Johnson (R., McDermott) on Tuesday proposed changes to his own bill, House Bill 203, that is designed to make it easier to carry a concealed handgun in Ohio and to take it to other states. It includes what would be Ohio’s version of a “stand-your-ground” law, eliminating the duty under existing law to first try to retreat from a potentially dangerous situation before using a gun.

It would essentially broaden Ohio’s Castle Doctrine law that presumes such a person acted in self-defense when he shoots an intruder inside his home or car.

“If you are … in a legitimate self-defense situation, legitimately fear for your life, in a situation you did not cause, did not prolong, did not exacerbate, and you’re where you’re allowed to be, carrying a firearm, I want that person to defend him or herself,” Mr. Johnson said. “I want that ambiguity removed.”

Florida’s version of “stand your ground” became a subject of national debate last year when George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin during a struggle on the street. Mr. Zimmerman said he followed the unarmed, 17-year-old because he was suspicious of his presence in the neighborhood.

A jury later acquitted Mr. Zimmerman, who said he acted in self-defense when young Martin turned and attacked him. Mr. Zimmerman never invoked Florida’s “stand-your-ground” law as part of his defense strategy.

Ken Hanson, legislative director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said the proposed “stand-your-ground” law in Ohio would not be the same as in Florida. In Ohio, someone who uses a gun for self-protection in such a situation still would have to prove he did not cause the situation and show that he has reasonable grounds to believe he was in imminent danger.

“Ohio is not in sync with the rest of the country,” said Toby Hoover, executive director of the Toledo-based Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence. “The rest of the country, even those who have ‘stand your ground anywhere you have a right to be,’ are thinking about repealing that. Ohio is going to move forward.”

The bill tries again to establish a reciprocity system with other states to recognize each other’s concealed-carry licenses, an effort that fell apart late last year amid concerns it would lead to Ohio recognizing permits from states with weaker background check and training requirements.

Some of the latest changes in the bill are at least partly designed to make it easier to establish reciprocity with other states.

It requires a county sheriff to do a check with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System to see if an applicant for a concealed-carry license is already barred from owning a firearm. It attempts to align Ohio law prohibiting the issuance of a license to someone who is the subject of a domestic violence protection order with federal law prohibiting such a person from purchasing a handgun.

And it allows Ohioans to buy rifles from other states far from its own borders and for those states to buy those guns in Ohio.

But the law also scales back the number of hours that a person must undergo training before getting a license from 12 hours to 4.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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