Gun laws: Recent resident questions draw answers from Butler County departments

Recent resident questions about use of force by gun owners on their own property and in public prompted police to explain more about the laws.

A man with a CCW permit, for example, came to the Middletown police station recently to ask about his rights to self-defense if he was at political rallies with a firearm and protesters became heated, and a man raised some concern when he walked a child to a school bus stop with a rifle strapped to his back, according to Major Eric Crank.

"They have questions about their rights, that’s why we put out the law straight from (Ohio Attorney General) Dave Yost’s Office,” Crank said.

As of Sept. 9, 3,372 CCW permits have been issued for this year in Butler County. There were 5,143 issued in 2019, and 6,480 were issued in 2018, according to Butler County Sheriff’s Office. Lt. Morgan Dallman.

“In Ohio, deadly force can be used to prevent serious bodily harm or death," according to the guidance from Yost’s office. “Deadly force can never be used to protect property only. Depending on specific facts and circumstances of he situation, use of deadly force may lead to criminal charges and/or civil liability.”

Crank, who said he supports the Second Amendment, added that there is a lot of misinformation about rights of citizens with and without a CCW permit.

“The whole thing is to have a gun you have to have a great responsibility.” Crank said.

The city’s law department is researching the gun issue at a bus stop. Crank said the person is clearly not concealing the weapon, but is the a bus stop considered a school safety zone where weapons are prohibited?

“There is some common sense about it. If you want to open carry while you are cutting your grass or walking the dog, that’s one thing. But open carry to a bus stop, you are going to draw alarm and you are going to draw attention to yourself. Cause alarm to the kids on the bus, cause alarm to other parents and residents," Crank said.

Middletown Police Chief David Birk said getting the word out on all elements of the law pertaining to use of deadly force, carrying a weapon and self defense is important.

“There are some gray areas, like at a school bus stop,” Birk said. “We just want people to understand the law.”

Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser, who routinely takes self-defense cases involving a firearm to a grand jury for review, said knowledge of the law is essential.

“You cannot use deadly force to protect property, period. So if you see someone breaking into your car or your neighbor’s car and there is no one in the car, you ... better not be shooting at them. That is going to get you charged,” Gmoser said.

But using deadly force when you are in fear of you life in your home or vehicle is a different situation, officials said.

“If you are in the car and somebody is smashing their way into your car and you are in immediate fear your life (you can use deadly force). The Castle Doctrine applies to cars as well as houses,” Gmoser said.

The prosecutor also noted being in fear for your life is also key in justified use of deadly force.

“Castle Doctrine goes to the inside of your house, you can’t be shooting somebody from your porch, just because they step on your property,” Gmoser said. “Now, if they come through the door and you are in fear for your life, that’s different. If it is just a neighbor who’s (been drinking) and has the wrong address and you know what is happening, that might be a different ending if you decide to shoot them anyway.”

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