COLUMBUS (WCMH) — For nearly an hour, a debate over the finer points of Senate Bill 180 was held during the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday.
Jim Irvine, the President of the Board of Directors for the Buckeye Firearms Association stood as a witness supporting SB180, providing his opinion on its merits and fielding questions from the 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 claims 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; while the prosecutor still has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt they committed a crime.
Senate Bill 180 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 says he has the utmost confidence that prosecutors will find a way to try the cases and put the truly guilty behind bars, saying that this isn’t an issue in states with a legal process similar to what SB180 would put in place.
However, prosecutors can lose zero percent of cases they never try; and since they loathe to try cases they are not sure they can get a conviction on, it is 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 says, 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; notably the removal of a requirement to notify police when you are carrying a concealed weapon and interact with them, and 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 from any location if their life is being threatened. He says the fact that Ohioans have no duty to retreat in their homes and cars, but do have one 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.