Over strong objections from police chiefs, police officers and prosecutors, the Ohio House has caved to the gun lobby. It approved legislation that would end the state’s requirement that a person retreat, if possible, before using deadly force in self-defense. The bill, unfortunately, also continued the House penchant for weakening, bit by bit, requirements in the state’s law on carrying a concealed weapon, yet another concession to the gun lobby.
Notable in committee testimony leading up to Wednesday’s floor vote was the united front presented by the law-enforcement community, normally a voice given much deference in the Republican-dominated legislature.
Two dozen states have variations on the “stand your ground” law, the concept landing center stage after the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. In Ohio, those representing police chiefs and officers warn about an invitation to deadly violence. As the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police and Prosecuting Attorneys Association rightly stressed, repealing the duty to retreat would mean that killings now considered criminal would become justifiable homicides.
Testimony from the Fraternal Order of Police pointed to the further danger in an automatic reciprocity provision, which would give recognition to concealed handgun permits issued by states that recognize Ohio permits. In effect, other states would dictate Ohio policy. Mike Weinman of the FOP called that part of the bill “frightening,” noting that some states, such as Indiana, lack training standards for concealed carry.
The FOP voiced opposition to provisions lowering the state’s training requirements, from 12 hours to four (which Weinman described as “woefully inadequate”). It also objected to a change stopping police from detaining and frisking armed individuals if an officer fears crimes of disorderly conduct or inducing panic may occur.
Joining the opposition were Democratic representatives from the state’s largest cities. They asked how such a bill could be introduced in the wake of the Martin shooting. Questions understandably surfaced, too, about letting those with concealed carry permits avoid background checks when purchasing a gun, creating a loophole that could bring trouble.
Studies have shown an increase in rates of murder and non-negligent homicide in the 20 or so states with “stand your ground” laws. With their expansive view of gun rights, House Republicans run the unnecessary risk of joining them.