‘Stand your ground’ vote on tap

Ohio’s House could decide on measure as soon as today


COLUMBUS — The state House of Representatives could vote today on whether to make Ohio the 23rd state to have some version of a “stand your ground” law.

A Republican-controlled committee voted 7-4 along party lines to send the full chamber the measure, which also would require Ohio to recognize other states’ permits allowing their residents to carry concealed firearms as long as those other states also recognize Ohio’s licenses.

Ken Hanson, legislative director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, told the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee that Ohio’s law will remain distinctive from those of other “stand your ground” states and insisted it will not lead to government-excused shootings in the name of self-defense.

“Ohio is in the minority of one, perhaps two states, that require a defendant to prove an affirmative defense that they were acting in self-defense,” he said. “The other states ... require the prosecution to prove that the defendant was not acting in self-defense.”

Ohio has a so-called Castle Doctrine law under which a person does not have the legal duty to retreat before using deadly force to protect himself in his home or car. House Bill 203 would remove that legal obligation to first try to retreat from a potentially dangerous situation in any place that the legal gun-carrier has a right to be.

Toledo City Council passed a resolution opposing the “stand your ground” language.

“I firmly believe in our law as it currently stands,” Councilman Lindsay Webb recently told the panel. “If a person is assaulted in their home or if their home was attacked, they have no duty to retreat and could use such means as are necessary to repel the assailant from their home or to prevent any forcible entry into their home, even deadly force, provided they had reasonable grounds to believe and an honest belief that the use of deadly force was necessary to repel the assailant or to prevent the forcible entry.”

Florida’s variation of “stand your ground” became an issue last year when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood-watch volunteer, shot and killed Trayvon Martin during a struggle that ensued after a suspicious Mr. Zimmerman followed the unarmed 17-year-old.

Mr. Zimmerman was acquitted in a racially charged trial after arguing he acted in self-defense. Florida’s law was never invoked as a defense, but the case did ignite a national debate on such laws.

The committee rejected several proposed Democratic amendments, including one that would have stripped the “stand your ground” language from the bill.

As of September, 392,000 Ohioans held licenses to carry concealed guns.

Attempts to create simple reciprocity with other states for the legal carrying of hidden firearms across state lines repeatedly ran into stumbling blocks because of the states’ differing training and background-check standards.

Currently, the attorney general negotiates such pacts on a case-by-case basis with states that have “substantially comparable” requirements as Ohio’s. The state has 23 such agreements, with neighbors Michigan, Kentucky, and West Virginia among them.

The Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio opposes both the “stand your ground” and reciprocity provisions. “Ironically, the proposed reciprocity changes in HB 203 cede the rights of this great state and grant them to others,” FOP lobbyist Mike Weinman said. “Indianans will be determining who carries a firearm in Ohio. This is frightening in that Indiana does not have a training standard.”

But the bill scales back the hours a person must undergo training before getting an Ohio license from 12 hours to four.

National Rifle Association lobbyist John Hohenwarter, Jr., said he’s looking forward to his home state of Pennsylvania having a reciprocal agreement with Ohio.

“Pennsylvania doesn’t have a training requirement,” he said. “We issue more permits per capita than any state in the country, and we have no problems — with no training requirement.”

If the measure passes the House, it would need to pass the Senate before heading to Gov. John Kasich’s desk.

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