Login | January 22, 2019

Substitute bill further bolsters gun self-defense proposal

Special to the Legal News

Published: January 5, 2018

Members of a committee in the Ohio House of Representatives recently accepted a substitute version of House Bill 228 - a measure to codify an affirmative claim of self defense.

The new version of the bill addresses four elements for which there was no provision in the original bill proffered by Republican Reps. Terry Johnson of McDermott and Sarah LaTourette of Chesterland: the elimination of a requirement to carry valid identification; preemption by the state any local firearm regulations; firearm restrictions in public, subsidized housing; and an affirmative defense to the charge of improper handling a firearm in a motor vehicle.

Perhaps the most profound addition to the original bill is the state's preemption of any local firearm regulation interfering with an individual's right to bear arms, inhibiting individuals from protecting themselves, their families, or others from intruders and attackers, or otherwise inhibiting the legitimate use of firearms.

The substitute bill specifies that a person, group, or entity adversely affected by the enactment or enforcement of a local firearm ordinance, rule, regulation, resolution, practice or other action enacted or enforced by a political subdivision in conflict with the previous paragraph may bring a civil action and be awarded actual damages, declaratory relief, injunctive relief or a combination thereof, the Ohio Legislative Service Commission noted in a comparison of the two pieces of legislation.

Any damages awarded to an individual adversely affected by the local regulation would be awarded against and paid for by the political subdivision, commission analysis determined.

The bill would require any award to cover reasonable expenses in addition to damages if the plaintiff prevails in bringing the suit or if the ordinance, rule, regulation, resolution, practice or action or the manner of its enforcement is repealed or rescinded prior to a final determination of the civil action.

In addition to an individual who has standing to file such a suit, the substitute bill would allow any Ohio resident who may legally possess a firearm and any membership organization, group or entity with at least one member who has standing or who may legally possess a firearm to bring the civil action.

The new version of the bill also would expand the list of firearm activities the state may regulate. These include manufacture, taxation, keeping and reporting of loss or theft of firearms, their components and their ammunition.

Similarly, the bill expands an Ohio citizen's right to bear arms to include the right to acquire, carry, sell and manufacture firearms.

The changes to the original bill remain true to the original intent of HB 228.

"This is not a bill that will allow the unrestricted use of weapons and allow people to claim self defense (without stringent scrutiny)," Johnson said during testimony before members of the Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee. "In fact, this will not be the most far-reaching law in the country, if passed."

Rather "Ohio will join 38 other states with laws similar to what is proposed in this bill."

He mused that, perhaps one day, the Buckeye State would be as progressive as California and allow those acting in self defense to "pursue their assailant if reasonable in the situation."

Finally, the substitute bill would add an affirmative defense to improperly handling firearms in a motor vehicle.

Such a defense would apply only if the firearm is a handgun, the handgun was placed in the motor vehicle by an individual other than the defendant and the defendant did not know or have reason to know that the handgun was placed in the motor vehicle.

The measure had not been scheduled subsequent hearing by the House committee at time of publication.

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