Self-defense, ‘Walkability’

House Bill 203, Ohio’s version of the “stand your ground” law that passed the Ohio House late last year, could resurface in the Senate this spring.
We hope it dies on the vine. There is no good reason to tinker with the state’s self-defense law.
Currently, Ohioans who are confronted in their home or car can use deadly force if they fear for their life or that of a family member. Here, and in many other states, the expectation is that a person has a duty to retreat, and avoid the use of deadly force, when a confrontation occurs in other places.
That seems reasonable and adequate.
House Bill 203 proposes to expand the circumstances under which a person can use force in self-defense. It specifies that a person has no duty to retreat if he or she is where he or she “lawfully has a right to be.”
Removing retreat from the equation would only invite more confrontations with tragic endings.
Unlike the fatal shooting in Florida of Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, Ohio, fortunately, has not experienced such a high-profile case in recent years.
While 28 states, including Florida, have some form of “stand your ground” law, there would appear to be no reason for Ohio to follow suit. There’s no evidence that states with such self-defense rules have lesser crime rates than those that don’t. Ohio police and prosecutor associations are among those who oppose the bill.
The bill would also update several of the state’s concealed carry license rules. It would improve background checks and license reciprocity agreements with other states. Another change would cut the number of training hours required for a gun permit from 12 to four. That seems foolish, especially for applicants with no knowledge of firearms.
House Bill 203 appears to be yet another example of a solution in search of a problem.
Changing the state’s self-defense standard at the same time that a record number of Ohioans are obtaining concealed carry permits is a recipe for trouble.
Lawmakers would better serve the public by leaving self-defense for another day.
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Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik’s recommended reading includes an article in a magazine probably not on your living room coffee table.
“American City and County” has an article, “Getting downtown back on its feet, how walkability is tied to a city’s success,” that describes a downtown that Mihalik and others would like Findlay to have.
It discusses how Portsmouth, N.H.; Decatur, Ga.; and Oklahoma City have transformed plain old downtowns into, as Oklahoma City Mayor Mitch Cornett said, “a city for people, not just a city for cars.”
The key is “walkability,” or developing a place “where people want to be,” not just drive through, according to the article.
Decatur city planner Peggy Merriss said a computer gambling company recently came to her downtown, in part, “because it was so easy to get out and walk to restaurants, walk to a dry cleaners, walk to a grocery store.”
Decatur’s commitment to walkability includes “traffic-calming projects,” bicycle lanes and narrower streets.
Does this sound familiar?
But first, the officials said, a city must commit itself to “shift its priorities.”
“We have adopted a ‘walk-friendly’ policy,” said Portsmouth’s city planner, John Bohenko.
“(It) outlines the city’s support for becoming a walk-friendly community by integrating pedestrian accommodation into our municipal decision-making practices when we’re doing our roadway improvements.”
There’s more, of course. It helps explain the thinking behind the first, more intensive plan for downtown, now discarded.
Why not read it and tell Findlay officials, and us, what you think? You can find it at http://americancityandcounty.com/sustainable-communities/getting-downtown-back-its-feet .

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