Monday, June 2, 2008

Way to go Ohio!

Nope, not the Pretenders song.....But better!

TOLEDO, OH, June 1st, 2008 …
Change included in gun legislation

COLUMBUS - Potential victims who harm or kill apparent intruders in their homes or vehicles would get the legal benefit of the doubt under a just-passed bill destined to get Gov. Ted Strickland's signature.

Sponsored by state Sen. Stephen Buehrer (R., Delta) and pushed by the National Rifle Association, the measure served as a magnet for changes to Ohio's 4-year-old law allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns.

The changes will make it easier for motorists to carry weapons in their cars and in school zones and will prohibit landlords from forbidding tenants from having guns in their rented residences.

The measure was among a flurry of bills sent to the governor this week as lawmakers near summer recess. It won strong bipartisan support in both chambers, despite a lack of support from some law enforcement organizations.

The bill would take effect 90 days after Mr. Strickland signs it.

"He believes the legislation provides law-abiding gun owners with appropriate and reasonable protections, and he's looking forward to signing the bill," said Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey.

Commonly called the "Castle Doctrine," the bill shifts the burden away from the apparent victim to prosecutors and police to prove that an individual did not act in self-defense. The bill specifies that the legal resident does not have a duty to retreat when someone is illegally entering or attempting to enter his home or car.

"A lot of people believe that's the current law, that you have the ability to protect you and your family in your house," Mr. Buehrer said. "They are shocked to find out that's not the case. The general law in Ohio is if you're attacked, you have a duty to retreat. The courts have recognized that if you're in your home, you don't have a duty to retreat, but we're only one prosecutor or one judge away from losing that right in case law in Ohio."

Disputes under the law, however, have not been common in Ohio.

About half of the nation's states have some form of Castle Doctrine on their books. Mr. Buehrer said Ohio's does not go as far as some other states. Ohio's version would allow a prosecutor who doubts a self-defense story to file charges, but it would require the prosecutor to make his case by a "preponderance of the evidence."

"It's a high burden, but it does provide the opportunity to go there," he said.

The final bill dropped a provision in the original version that would have given the same protections to someone who claimed to have acted in self-defense outside his home.

Despite the changes, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association never dropped its opposition, arguing that the courts had already worked out a way for a defendant to demonstrate he was in reasonable fear of bodily harm when he acted.

After the bill passed the Senate, the House attached a number of amendments changing Ohio's concealed-carry law, particularly as it applies to carrying guns in vehicles.

When originally passed in 2004, the law required motorists to have the gun "in plain sight" so that it could be seen by a law enforcement officer approaching a vehicle. Later it was changed to require the gun to be holstered on the person in plain view or locked in a glove compartment or other box.

The latest version allows a motorist to keep a gun in an unlocked glove compartment or a center console, but the driver must still inform an officer that he is a permit-holder and has a gun in the vehicle.

"Current law doesn't make sense," said Jim Irvine, chairman of the Buckeye Firearms Association. "You can't put a gun in an unlocked glove box and you can't put it in a center console, but you can have it in a purse or brief case right next to you. We're trying to make the law work. Every change was to address real problems."

The Ohio State Highway Patrol initially opposed the change but later took a stance of neutrality.

"Our main concern was the officer's safety," said Lt. Shawn Davis, patrol spokesman.

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