The state of Ohio lacks an important piece of law. While Stand Your Ground laws are controversial, it’s usually because of a poor understanding of them, not because of what the laws actually mean.
In Ohio, there’s a battle underway to try to fix that oversight. State Senate Republicans have announced they’ll work to clarify the bill before it comes up for a vote.
Senate Republicans are expected to make changes aimed at further clarifying a controversial stand-your-ground bill, but it’s unclear if the moves will soften opposition by prosecutors and law enforcement.
House Bill 228, which is likely to see amendments and a full Senate vote Thursday, would eliminate Ohio’s current duty to retreat, a provision that says a person has an obligation to escape from a confrontation, if possible, before using deadly force.
“We think (the bill) makes it clear that you have under current law and you will continue to have a right to defend yourself,” said Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee. “We’re going to bring clarity to the situations under which you may utilize deadly force to protect yourself.”
Coley said he plans to borrow from military protocol and add a three-prong threshold for when to use deadly force: the aggressor demonstrates a clear intent to cause death or serious harm, the aggressor has the capability of doing such harm, and the potential victim is truly in jeopardy.
“Everyone can run those three scenarios through their head before they think about pulling the trigger,” Coley said.
Not that the clarifying language is likely to mean anything to Gov. John Kasich. He’s already vowed to veto the bill.
Luckily for the people of Ohio, the measure passed with enough votes in the House to override that veto. In other words, Kasich’s anti-gun position isn’t held by a huge swath of the state’s lawmakers, and the winners in this are the people of Ohio.
That said, I’m not sure Sen. Coley is correct on the last of this three-prong threshold. I haven’t read the bill as it will be written, but to say the potential victim has to truly be in danger means a prosecutor could press charges against someone who acts against an individual who is armed with, say, a BB gun. As police officers can tell you, when you’re acting to defend your life, you don’t really get a chance to examine the weapon. You have to respond.
But if the onus is on the armed citizen to make sure they’re truly in danger, then we have a huge problem.
I hope that the actual language will be written in such a way as to preclude such prosecutions. The standard needs to be that a reasonable person would believe they’re in jeopardy. In other words, was there a legitimate reason for the person to think their life was in danger? That’s the threshold most states use, and it’s the right one.
You can phrase it however you want, but in the end, people shouldn’t be punished because the thug wasn’t using a real gun. My hope is that the Senate Republicans in Ohio understand that.