Ohio’s march toward vigilante ‘justice’
Customer at a gun store. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images).
The Ohio General Assembly has passed, Gov. Mike DeWine has signed three recently passed gun bills that endanger Ohioans and favor vigilantes.
SB 175 – Stand Your Ground
There was SB 175, known as “stand your ground” or shoot whoever makes you nervous. Ohio common law had been that self-defense with deadly force was available as a defense only if the defendant had a bona fide belief that she was in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and that her only means of escape was the use of force.
In contrast, stand your ground now provides that deadly force or great bodily harm does not have to be threatened to use deadly force in response — any threat to a residence or safety can be sufficient.
The new law also changes the ability of a jury to decide on justification for the shooting.
In December 2020, then-State Sen. John Eklund, a conservative Republican, correctly pointed out that stand your ground rejects the “tradition in which we trust … the fact-finder, often the jury, to evaluate the case….” and provides that “the jury shall not consider the possibility of retreat as a factor in determining whether or not a person who used force in self-defense reasonably believed that force was necessary to prevent injury …. ”
Eklund concluded that this this would be a “disaster to the administration of justice.”
Stand your ground eases the standard for permitted use of deadly force, plays to biases of the individual who feels threatened, and empowers those individuals to act as vigilantes.
In passing stand your ground, the General Assembly rejected the opposition of the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Columbus NAACP and National Task Force on Stand Your Ground Laws of the American Bar Association.
SB 215 – Permitless Concealed Carry
The Ohio Supreme Court previously upheld the constitutionality of Ohio’s long-time prohibition on carrying concealed weapons and ruled that “there is no constitutional right to bear concealed weapons.”
However, due to SB 215, Ohio now allows untrained individuals with no training in or knowledge of firearms, and without passing a background check, to carry loaded, concealed firearms.
As a result, the government fails its first duty to protect citizens and turns instead to untrained vigilantes for the concealed carrier’s subjective view of protection.
Twenty-three state attorneys general, including Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, argued in 2019 in the U.S. Supreme Court that laws requiring a background check and training in firearms decrease crime rates, yet SB 215 eliminated these safeguards.
Hamilton County Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey testified, “Allowing virtually anyone in Ohio to conceal weapons on their person without training or background checks will make Ohio less safe.”
Similarly, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ohio Mayors Alliance, and the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police testified that SB215 “will make our communities less safe.”
HB 99 – More guns in schools carried by insufficiently trained individuals
House Bill 99 reduced the current requirement of 737 hours of training to only 24 hours for teachers and other individuals authorized by local school boards to “go armed within a school safety zone.”
Of course, the choice should not be between 737 and 24 hours, but what hours and laws are needed to meet the General Assembly’s obligation under Article VI of the Ohio Constitution to provide for safe schools.
The bill’s reduction to 24 hours of training flies in the face of the recommended training of 152 hours then-Attorney General DeWine’s office in 2014 recommended to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC).
The reduction also flies in the face of the chiefs of police of Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown: “Significantly reducing firearm training for school personnel will make our schools less safe and increase the likelihood that a student will be unintentionally harmed or killed by a firearm in a school.”
House Bill 99, moreover, provides no guidance on the safe storage of guns when the volunteers are not using their guns.
Further, it provides no guidance on the use of lethal force by teachers or other volunteers authorized by local school boards to carry guns into schools.
In contrast, before school resource officers (SRO’s) — who are already fully trained police officers — can act in schools, R.C. §3313.951(C)(2) requires a detailed memorandum between law enforcement and the school on the responsibilities of the SROs.
There was no valid reason for the General Assembly to impose a lesser safety standard for volunteers bringing loaded guns into schools than for trained police being loaded firearms into schools.
In contrast, to receive a temporary driver’s license, Ohio law requires 24 hours of classroom instruction, 50 hours of driving with a parent and at least 10 hours of night driving. https://www.bmv.ohio.gov/dl-gdl.aspx .
The General Assembly would not pass a driving permit law saying (1) an individual only needed 24 hours of classroom instruction, with no driving time required, but (2) the local government could add required driving time to get a permit.
It was similarly unsafe for the General Assembly to cede standard-setting on guns in schools to local school districts, effectively allowing the appointment of vigilantes without notice to the parents of the selection criteria or regulations.
The Ohio General Assembly has been pushing Ohio toward dangerous vigilante “justice.”
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