The Ohio Senate is currently reviewing Ohio Senate Bill 180, also known as the “stand-your-ground” bill, which would change laws about the duty to retreat in situations of self-defense. Stand-your-ground laws allow people to use self-defense, namely guns, instead of retreating if they believe using their weapon will "prevent death or great bodily harm,” according to FindLaw.com.
Under current Ohio laws, citizens have the right to stand their ground in their own home or car under the Castle Doctrine. Ohio SB 180 addresses the duty to retreat outside of these areas. Current laws in Ohio demand concealed carry permit holders to attempt to retreat as self-defense before using deadly force.
The Senate Judiciary Committee met in Columbus on Tuesday to discuss Ohio SB 180. Jim Irvine, the president of the Board of Directors for the Buckeye Firearms Association, spoke as a witness in support of the bill. He called for change in stand-your-ground laws. Irvine argued that passing Ohio SB 180 would align Ohio with more states, making the country closer to federal unification.
Currently, if one uses self-defense as a legal defense, the defense must prove the defendant felt his life was in danger. This is called an affirmative defense. With proposed changes of the stand-your-ground law, the tables would turn and the prosecution would have to prove the defendant was not in fear for his life — efforts made to prove a negative.
Some supporters of Ohio SB 180 believe the current system for using self-defense in a potential stand-your-ground situation resembles a ‘guilty until proven innocent’ model. They argue that if someone was in danger, he should be legally able to protect himself and not assumed guilty for doing so.
Opponents of the stand-your-ground bill disagree with this reasoning. At the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting, Republican State Senator Matt Dolan asked Irvine, “How in the world can the prosecution present evidence only known to the defendant?” Senator Dolan made a good point—being in fear for one’s own life is a subjective matter, not hard evidence. It is impossible to prove anyone’s emotions, much less should a trial hinge on that as an argument.
Prosecutors cannot lose cases they do not try, and with the proposed changes to the legal system, many more cases would be near guaranteed losses. Generally, prosecutors will not pick up cases they know they will lose—as many prosecutors at the Senate Judiciary Committee meeting attested to—which would allow more guilty would-be-defendants to walk free.
Matters of legal proceedings aside, loosening these gun regulations at all is dangerous. If someone knows he can shoot anyone whom he feels threatened by in any place, what would hold him back? Who decides what “feeling threatened” means, and to what severity must it be felt to use deadly force? How is every individual citizen supposed to understand these vague standards?
It is already impossible to concretely define what constitutes justice for every situation, but the stand-your-ground bill would only make matters worse.