Misinformed South Euclid Council President David Miller sponsors resolution opposing guns in bars...two years late

South Euclid Police Chief Kevin Nietert also seems unaware of current state law on the subject

by Chad D. Baus

The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Cleveland.com is reporting that South Euclid, Ohio Council President David Miller has sponsored a council resolution opposing a portion of House Bill 203 involving proposed modifications to Ohio's self-defense law, as well as another modification to Ohio law that he believes is currently being proposed, but in fact became law nearly two years ago.

The article, written by "Jeff Piorkowski, Northeast Ohio Media Group," is a journalistic disaster, and I'm honestly not sure whether to comment more on the problems with the poor reporting, or the misinformed council president and police chief. The article is so full of mistakes that it's hard to figure out what happened here - did the misinformed council president and police chief trigger a misinformed journalist? Or vice versa?

[UPDATE: Cleveland.com Writer Acknowledges Inaccurate Reporting on Gun Law]

In the first paragraph, Mr. Piorkowski writes that "House Bill 203...would expand Ohio's so-called 'stand your ground' law." The article later repeats this language of "expansion." The fact is, however, Ohio doesn't currently have anything that could be characterized as a 'stand your ground' law, so I'm not sure how we would go about "expanding" something that doesn't yet exist. Is it possible that Mr. Piorkowski simply meant that HB 203 means to expand Ohio's Castle Doctrine law?

Before I am accused of nit-picking, let me explain that it gets worse - a LOT worse.

From the same article, a few paragraphs later:

Miller said he does not appose the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. He also said he supports the "Castle Doctrine," currently Ohio law, which allows people to use of force when an intruder enters their homes.

But he said the proposed expansion of the stand-your-ground law goes too far.

"I really have a problem with the fact that, if you start a fight with someone and then you start getting your behind kicked, that you can take out a gun and shoot the person you started a fight with and call it self defense," he said.

OK, so now it appears that Council President Miller, at least, understands what Castle Doctrine is (even as Piorkowski is still writing about expanding something that doesn't exist), but it is clear that Miller has no clue about what the proposed changes in HB 203 will do. Miller's perception that "you can take out a gun and shoot the person you started a fight with and call it self defense" is absolutely, 100% FALSE.

If the proposed changes are passed into law, in order to use lethal/deadly force in self-defense, a person claiming self-defense must still be able to prove both that he or she was not at fault in creating the situation, that they had reasonable grounds to believe (objective facts) and an honest belief (a subjective belief that the objective facts amounted to) an imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death, and that the only way to escape this imminent danger was using lethal/deadly force. Period.

Council President Miller is either intentionally lying, or sadly misinformed, about the changes HB 203 would make to Ohio law. My guess, based on what comes next is the latter.

Miller is also against another portion of the bill that would allow concealed gun permit holders into bars provided they do not consume alcohol.

"Guns and liquor don't go together," he said.

South Euclid Police Chief Kevin Nietert agrees with Miller's stance on both of the proposed changes.

"Personally, I'm against the Stand Your Ground Doctrine because it makes it too easy to rationalize the use of force when other means of diffusing the situation should be taken," Nietert said. "You end up with a situation like the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin situation where the key witness is dead."

As for allowing guns into bars, Nietert said, "I struggle with the mixing of alcohol and firearms. Why do people go into bars but to drink? Alcohol and guns are an ugly combination and a recipe for disaster."

At this point in my first read through the article I had to scroll back up and read the date again, to make sure it wasn't an old article.

That's because HB 203 does not seek to make changes to Ohio law on the issue of concealed carry in places that serve alcohol. The reason? That issue was debated and settled two years ago this month, when the changes passed in Senate Bill 17 on September 30, 2011.

Not only does the South Euclid Council President have no clue about what HB 203 would make to Ohio's self defense laws, he also is under the mistaken impression that the same bill would make it legal for licensees to carry in places that serve alcohol - something that actually has been law for two years!

It is easy to understand why Miller was unaware of the fact that the law had been changed so long ago - none of the predictions made by "Chicken Little's" like him at the time the law was passed have come true. It is less easy to understand why Police Chief Kevin Nietert didn't correct the record, since his job as a law enforcement officer requires that be be knowledgeable about the law.

Yes, Chief Nietert, "Alcohol and guns are an ugly combination and a recipe for disaster." We heard a lot of that before SB 17 was passed. And we haven't heard a peep about it since, since it's been two years and the disaster has yet to happen.

And let's not forget that the journalist, Mr. Piorkowski, apparently is not aware of these facts either, since he did not mention the fact that Miller's resolution is based on mistakes, misunderstandings and mischaracterizations, or the fact that the South Euclid police chief is apparently unaware of a provision in Ohio law that was put in place two years ago.

For his part, Buckeye Firearms Association's Rick Kaleda attempted to set the men straight:

Rick Kaleda, Northeast Ohio chair of the Buckeye Firearms Association, a political action committee dedicated to advancing people's right to own and bear firearms, disagrees with Miller's and Nietert's positions on House Bill 203.

Kaleda, who teaches those seeking a license to properly carry a gun, said rational and responsible people go through the process to gain a license to carry.

"Responsible people don't want to shoot somebody," he said. "The second worst thing I would ever have to do is shoot somebody. The worst thing would be just standing there without a gun when somebody is threatening my family."

As for carrying a gun into a bar, Kaleda refuted Nietert's assertion that one enters a bar only to drink alcohol.

"It's illegal now to drink alcohol and carry a firearm," he said. "But I would tell the chief to look at the menu in a bar."

Kaleda said he goes regularly with his young daughters to establishments that serve alcohol, while carrying his gun, to buy hamburgers, desserts and to eat from the salad bar.

"The most important point is that anytime we make an advancement and are moving forward there are opponents who try to give doom and gloom predictions that never happen," Kaleda said. "They're not a clairvoyant group of people.

Yep - in preparation for this article, Mr. Piorkowski spoke to a BFA leader, was informed that it is currently legal in Ohio to carry in a bar, and still wrote the article as if he had no such knowledge.

According to the article, the South Euclid City Council meets at 8 p.m. Sept. 9 (tonight!) on the second floor of South Euclid City Hall, 1349 S. Green Road to take up discussion about the misguided resolution. But honestly, at this point, who knows if that is accurate?

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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