I have gotten into a few discussions with people about the so called “Stand your ground” laws in various states. I think this is important to understand since Ohio HB 203 is a bill currently being looked at to modify the Ohio Concealed Carry laws to implement this idea. I find that there is a lot of confusion in what these actually are, and Maybe I can help to clear up some of that confusion.
Let me start by saying I am in no way a lawyer and this is not legal advice. Consult a qualified attorney for legal advice. This is just a description for everyone to understand..
Florida and George Zimmerman
Most people are familiar with “Stand your ground” from the news media. Where the phrase really came into the limelight was during the George Zimmerman trial (that’s a whole other post on a different day). They portray it a couple of different ways. “People will now just be shooting each other in the streets anytime they feel afraid!” “It’s racist!” “It’s an unfair advantage and will let more murders happen and people get away with it!” Sadly all of those are so far from the truth.
Let’s try and break these down for you. “Stand your ground” laws have been so named because they allow a person to not have to back down from being threatened….sort of. There is much more involved here then just being allowed to fight back.
No Duty to Retreat
These laws (at least in Ohio it will be) are actually named “No duty to Retreat” laws. What this means is that as long as you are someplace you are lawfully allowed to be (a grocery store, a movie theater, a video rental store, etc for example) and not committing a crime (shoplifting, selling drugs, robbing grandma) you have no duty anymore to retreat if the need to protect yourself from severe damage or death is presented. As the laws currently stand, unless you are in your “castle” (defined as your home, car, tent, basically anyplace you reside) you are to make every attempt to retreat and get away from the situation unless you are unable to, then you are allowed to use whatever means necessary to protect yourself. “No Duty to Retreat” laws remove this retreat requirement. However they still don’t just give you carte blanche to just start shooting when threatened.
In Ohio you must meet 3 conditions when confronted with a threatening situation before you can deploy your firearm into a fight. One: Are you at fault? In other words, did you start the fight or do something to cause the start of the fight? Two: You must have an honest and reasonable belief of danger to yourself. and three, you had no duty to retreat or were unable to retreat. All HB 203 will be doing is removing this last requirement.
But how do I determine if I am in danger and can use my firearm to protect myself?
Massad Ayoob teaches it best. The information can be found in his MAG-40 Class and in his books. First is Ability. Do they have the ability to cause me physical severe damage or death. A person screaming they are going to kill me doesn’t have the ability. Second is opportunity. Is the person able to cause the harm right now? Standing across the parking lot holding a bat and screaming doesn’t have the opportunity. Lastly is Jeopardy. This is where a reasonable man would be able to tell the different between imminent danger and potential danger. In other words, am I going to get hurt right now or do I have time to do something else?
Hopefully that helps to clear up some of the confusion and helps steer you in the right direction.
Resources for you to read more:
Ohio Attorney General, CCW laws handbook for Ohio
Massad Ayoob – In the Gravest Danger – http://www.amazon.com/In-Gravest-Extreme-Personal-Protection/dp/0936279001/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383167806&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+gravest+of+danger