Both HB 228/ SB 180 (Fix Burden of Proof/Concealed Carry Modernization) get hearings

Last week HB 228 (Johnson/LaTourette) and SB 180 (Uecker/Hottinger) received hearings in their respective committees.

The core issues in these bills are:

  • Shift the burden of proof from a crime victim to the state where is properly belongs
  • Eliminate the “duty to retreat” for persons under threat of death or great bodily harm

On Tuesday, December 12, the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Kevin Bacon (R), held its 3rd hearing on SB 180, where it accepted all testimony. Testifying in opposition were:

  • Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association (OPAA)
  • American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU)
  • Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America
  • Muskingum County
  • Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP)

These organizations believe it is proper to deny someone life/liberty without the due process or proving beyond a reasonable doubt that they have committed a crime. They do not think a crime victim should enjoy the same rights under the law that a murderer or other criminals enjoys. And they are willing to go on record as such.
OPAA states, “Requiring the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person did not act in self-defense places an undue burden on the prosecution.” Why is the same burden they have when prosecuting every criminal suddenly an “undue burden” when dealing with victim forced to defend their life?

John Litle of Muskingum County testified that he was requested by one of the sponsors to research Ohio’s self-defense standard. He claimed to have found that “there was not one example of any person in the history of this state wrongfully, or even close-to-wrongfully convicted due to this standard.” It will require another article to fully refute this, but I hope no one paid him for his “research,” because Ohio courts have ruled otherwise.

The ACLU played the race card, which is ironic, because concealed carry is proven to be more helpful to minorities and the poor because a significant percentage of their population live in urban areas where there is more crime. We are trying to help the people who are most likely to be attacked in their communities. The ACLU wants a rigged system to imprison the less fortunate.

These organizations all railed against the “stand your ground” provision in the bill. Their testimony included quotes that gave the appearance of having coordinated talking points for their side. While we can’t prove they collaborated to mislead the committee and the public, we can prove they didn’t quote from the bill, because the phrase “stand your ground” is not in the bill. (Download the bill and do a search for the phrase yourself.) The words “duty to retreat” are in the bill, and in some cases would be stricken from law. None of those opposed elaborated on why the state should specify legal hoops or “duties” victims are required to comply with before exercising the core right of self-defense.

Rounding out the opposition was Michele Mueller of Moms Demand Action. If you like creative writing or great works of fiction, you might enjoy her testimony.

The proponent side saw three witnesses:

Doug Deeken spoke for Ohionans for Concealed Carry.

Amy Lesser was an important witnesses in that she was the only person who was not representing a group, but rather the perspective of an individual women concerned with her own safety. Her observations on “duty to retreat” are a perfect example of why we are fighting to change the bad law.

Timothy Young representing the Office of the Ohio Public Defender had excellent testimony, again making the case to the committee that Ohio law is different than every other state and the federal government. He said in part:

Ohio is the only state in the nation that still places the burden on the accused to prove they behaved lawfully – let me repeat that – instead of the government having to prove an act was unlawful, Ohio has steadfastly refused to join every other state and requires its citizens to prove they acted lawfully. Every other state has acknowledged that it is a fundamental principal of our criminal justice system that the state must show that an accused did not act lawfully. It is a fundamental tenant of law that to have one’s liberty taken, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt they acted unlawfully. In the area of homicide, the government must prove it was an unlawful killing. If someone acts in self‐defense then the taking of the life was not unlawful. Yet, Ohio alone does not require the government to prove that the killing was unlawful but instead puts the burden on its citizens to prove instead that it was lawful. That turns the entire system on its head.

Mr. Young was an excellent witness, correctly stating the facts about this legislation, the law, and how it works in real cases.

On Wednesday, December 13, the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee, chaired by Rep. Kristina Roegner (R) held a second hearing on HB 228. The committee accepted a substitute bill but did not hear witnesses.

The Substitute bill makes the following changes:

  • It eliminates the requirement to carry a second form of ID with your CHL.
  • Makes improvements to statewide preemption so that cities who violate will be responsible for attorney fees of those who successfully sue cities who are not in compliance.
  • Prohibits those who get government funding to subsidize residential housing from banning firearms in their lease.
  • Adds an affirmative defense in a vehicle for those who did not put the firearms in the vehicle (such as a valet driver or person who borrowed a car).

We thank both committee chairs for continuing to air out the issues surrounding these key pieces of legislation. At the beginning of the year we identified shifting the burden of proof and eliminating the duty to retreat from deadly force encounters as our highest priority items.

The bottom line is that Ohio law is defective and needs to be changed. Current law is fundamentally wrong and correcting it must be a priority for our legislature.

Jim Irvine is the Buckeye Firearms Foundation President, and recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 "Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award" and the CCRKBA's 2012 "Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award."

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