The Ohio Senate is considering a Stand Your Ground self-defense bill that passed the House just last week. The measure would make it legal for an individual to shoot someone in self defense without first trying to retreat to safety.
“There is general support for changing the burden from guilty until proven innocent, to innocent until proven guilty,” press secretary for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus John Fortney told Watchdog.org. “Right now, the burden is on the person who defended himself to prove deadly force was necessary, instead of as in other cases, that person is innocent until prosecuted and found guilty of violating the law.”
Members of the Senate will have to consider the specifics, as they do with any bill, Fortney said.
Current Ohio law says that a person who is in danger does not have to retreat before using force in self defense, including shooting someone, if the person is in his or her residence or lawfully occupying his or her vehicle or the vehicle of a close family member. The new law, however, would not require someone to retreat before using self-defense as long as that person has a lawful right to be present in the area in which the act of self-defense occurs.
To convict someone who is claiming self-defense, the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person did not act in defense of self or others under the proposed new law. Current law requires that the accused demonstrate a preponderance of evidence that he or she is innocent, meaning he or she can show that his or her side is more likely to be true than false. The new law, however, would shift the burden of proof to the accuser and require the prosecutor to erase all doubt that the person acted in self-defense to get a conviction.
“The updated duty-to-retreat and self-defense provisions contained in this legislation will help ensure that law-abiding citizens are able to protect themselves and their loved ones,” Rep. Sarah LaTourette, R-Chesterland, said in a news release. LaTourette sponsored the bill with Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott.
Erich Pratt, the executive director of Gun Owners of America, a gun-rights advocacy group, expressed support for Stand Your Ground legislation.
“Stand Your Ground laws are a great protection against overzealous prosecutors who despise honest gun owners using weapons in self-defense,” Pratt told Watchdog.org. “Stand Your Ground laws make it clear that law-abiding Americans are under no duty to retreat when they are under attack.”
Stand Your Ground laws, he said, are not a license to kill but rather a way to ensure that individuals can defend themselves and others if they reasonably fear death or great bodily harm. He cited a Tampa Bay Times study that showed that, out of 133 cases studied in Florida, only 54 percent were ruled to be justified, showing that there are still many convictions in states with such laws.
More than half of the states in the country have some form of a Stand Your Ground law.
The bill passed the House 64-26 almost entirely along party lines. Ohio Republicans have a 24-9 majority in the Senate.
A version of this article originally appeared on Watchdog.org.
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