Ohio: Interested in Standing Their Ground

Originally Written for Every Day News On Your Terms Now (dot) com

November 2013

While some are scratching their head at the fact that George Zimmerman is in the news again, this time because he has a girlfriend and people can’t seem to grapple with the concept  or why the media is telling them about it. Meanwhile the law and trial that his name has become synonymous with, is also in the news. Stand your ground legislation is well on its way to being formalized, in Ohio, seeing as November 20th saw Ohio’s state House approving a measure that would grant gun owners wider liberty to use their weapons in defense. They’d be joining nearly two dozen states with various shades of Florida’s highly publicized law; half of which came in to effect after the Trayvon Martin case.

Have you ever seen one of those convenience store surveillance videos with a would be theft charging into a shop, gun in hand, telling, the clerk at point blank range to give them all the money in the register. Only to have that employee without hesitation turn around, pull out their own shotgun, hop over the counter and chase them out; completely turning the tables. (If you haven’t seen one of these videos look them up.)

Castle laws in terms of self-defense rights at home, called this because your home is your castle, generally sound as cut and dry as the above instance looks. You come to my house, intent on attacking or harming me, and you’re getting attacked right back. Just like a parent tells a child to not back down from a bully, it’s all very, they may have started the fight, but you will be the one to finish it, sort of behavior where the law recognizes your retaliation and won’t hold it against should these events happen in your home, vehicle, or place of work. This ‘make my day’ law is contingent on another party throwing the first punch, so to speak, or presenting behavior aggressively towards you outside your comfort zone.

During the Zimmerman’s trial, we all got a lesson in stand your ground laws, which take self-defense to the next level, stating that the matter doesn’t have to be home based if you feel fear of immediate danger any place you’re legally allowed to be, you’re still not required to retreat and deadly force is allowable.

Despite opposing opposition all along the wording of the bill way, Republican Representative Terry Johnson, bill sponsor, and lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House voted 62-27 to advance the bill to the state Senate with the included modifications of reducing the training period required for a concealed weapon permit from 12 hours to four with 10 years between recertification, recognition of permits from other states, and permitting concealed handgun license  to low-level drug offenders.

Must self-defense always equal gun usage and increased allowance? Ohio certainly likes their guns. Records from the attorney general reveal that concealed weapons permits have annually increased. 2012 saw 64,000 new concealed weapon permits granted. Democrats are concerned about residents taking justice into their own hands. With good reason too because the measures one takes to get a gun in Ohio are some of the most lax as it currently stands. Furthermore, peculiar aspects of the law are blurry lined at best leaving room for questionable distinguishing between intent and response. Act first, think second and its defense (Zimmerman). Think first; act second, its aggravated assault (Marissa Alexander)?

Claiming self-defense in Ohio will come with the requirement of proving one’s case by a presenting a “preponderance of evidence,” verses Florida, where only reasonable doubt of guilt need be established.

Law and Order SVU recently aired an episode depicting a Trevyon Martain style involving a woman who shot and killed a man she suspected was a serial rapist, and who she thought was following her. The episode did a good job of showcasing how hazily one can seek to justify their actions.

Sam Hoover, staff attorney for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco, California, as reported by the Huffington Post sums it up well in his remarks, “We’re concerned about people pulling their guns and being aggressive. The statutes are emboldening people to some degree – they feel like they can shoot without liability. Part of the problem is the psychological mindset.”

In a time of increase gun buying and selling, will Ohio make it on the list of stand your ground states, or will their residents and the officials against it, stand their ground? I’m not a gambling woman, but my bet is on the house.