Stand Your Ground bill raises concern for senators in Columbus

AP Photo/Al Behrman

COLUMBUS (WYTV) – For nearly an hour, a debate over the finer points of the Stand Your Ground bill was held during the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Jim Irvine, the President of the Board of Directors for the Buckeye Firearms Association, stood as a witness supporting Senate Bill 180, providing his opinion on its merits and fielding questions from senators on the committee.

Several senators voiced concern over SB180, also known as the Stand Your Ground bill.

Democrat State Senator Sean O’Brien, a former prosecuting attorney, said he just could not support the bill and claimed it will do more harm than good.

Much of his concern deals with the transition from an affirmative defense to having the prosecutor prove a negative statement, which is very difficult.

For years, Ohioans have been afforded the ability to use the affirmative defense of self-defense, which only has to be believed based on the preponderance of the evidence. The prosecutor, on the other hand, still has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant committed a crime.

SB180 would force prosecutors to prove someone did not act in self-defense, to which Republican State Senator Matt Dolan asked Irvine, “How in the world can the prosecution present evidence only known to the defendant?”

Irvine said he has the utmost confidence that prosecutors will find a way to try the cases and put the truly guilty behind bars, saying this isn’t an issue in states with a law process similar to what SB180 would put in place.

However, prosecutors can lose zero percent of cases they never try. Since they loathe trying cases they aren’t sure they can get a conviction on, it’s understandable they may not even bring a case to trial if they have to prove a negative, which, again, is quite difficult.

As a result, O’Brien said, if this bill becomes law, it is possible murderers will walk free. Prosecutors in the room at the time of the hearing confirmed they share these concerns.

Meanwhile, Democrat State Senator Cecil Thomas, a former law enforcement officer, took issue with other things the bill is attempting to do. That includes the removal of a requirement to notify police when you are carrying a concealed weapon and interact with them, along with the bill’s removal of a duty to retreat before using deadly force.

Irvine pointed out that the changes to notification when carrying concealed have been addressed in other legislation going through the statehouse currently. He stood his ground on the principle of whether a victim should have a duty to retreat.

In Irvine’s mind, the victim should not have to retreat in any location if their life is being threatened. He said the fact that Ohioans have no duty to retreat in their homes and cars but do have to in the driveway of that home is not right.

The bill may get further hearings down the road. That will be up to the committee chairman, State Senator Kevin Bacon.