Know the Law: Redbird Armory Hosts Gun Seminar

Staff Writer

On Tuesday evening, Redbird Armory hosted U.S. Law Shield and Attorney Wilk Elsworth to go over laws with local gun owners. The two-hour seminar focused predominantly on defining what could bring about a menacing charge, when deadly force is appropriate when defending oneself or a third party and discussing the Castle Doctrine and what that means for gun owners.

For Elsworth, the cases that he receives the most calls for are instances where someone has been charged with menacing.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, “No person shall knowingly cause another to believe that the offender will cause physical harm to the person or property of the other person, the other person’s unborn, or a member of the other person’s immediate family.”
In order to avoid a menacing charge, Elsworth said firearm owners need to know the difference between deadly force and physical force. He mentioned that in times of an altercation, the max force someone being confronted can use is the same amount of force as the person assaulting them.
By showing an assailant a gun or weapon, it is believed that it is going to be used, which Elsworth said isn’t appropriate if the purpose is to diffuse the situation.
“Do not de-escalate by using your gun,” he said.
While “winning the moment” may make the threat go away temporarily, the consequences of doing so will catch up to the firearm owner when the police show up.
Brandishing, or taking a firearm out of the holster, will likely end with a menacing charge, Elsworth added, however, placing a hand on the holster isn’t considered brandishing but could still land someone with a charge. He recommended against doing so.

In Ohio, Elsworth said there need to be three confirmations to assure that a gun owner used deadly force in an appropriate manner.
First is the bonafide belief that their life is in danger or they will suffer severe bodily harm, second is they can’t be the one to have started the altercation and third is there is no option to retreat or escape.
With the second point, Elsworth used an example of someone picking up a brick to hit someone with. At first glance, the firearm owner had reason to believe they were in danger and if their back is up against a wall and they can’t retreat then they would be within their right to use their weapon.
But if evidence appears later that shows leading up to the situation they were the instigator, they are no longer within their right to use deadly force.
One benefit the attorney pointed out was with House Bill 228, defendants no longer have to prove they were within their rights to use deadly force. Instead, a prosecutor has to prove the defendant is a bad guy beyond reasonable doubt.
He did emphasize the need to retreat, adding that Ohio is strict on ensuring that whenever possible, people should escape.

The third party defense referred to situations in which the firearm owner walks into a situation where they see another’s life may be in danger. One example he gave was of a gun owner walking into a convenience store in the middle of a robbery. If they see an individual with a gun to someone’s head, the gun owner is within their right to use deadly force.
One key factor he pointed out, however, was the gun owner walking in on the robbery is not obligated to do anything. If they choose, they could walk out of the store.
Another key element is sometimes third party defense isn’t easy to determine.
He cited a situation of someone coming into a bar and starts shooting. In this situation, the bouncer is able to disarm the assailant and points the gun at them until police arrive. But when the police show up, all they see is a man with a gun pointed at another man and shoot the individual holding the gun.
In that situation, the police shot an innocent person.

Under the Castle Doctrine, the law is in effect for more than just a home. Elsworth mentioned that the law refers to a castle as any temporary habitation which includes hotel rooms, campsites, RVs or anywhere they are laying their head at night. It also includes their car and the car of an immediate family member.
He also said it is valid for areas attached to a home such as a porch or attached garage but not a yard or driveway.
In areas of habitation and vehicles, firearm owners are within their rights to shoot without asking questions. Elsworth noted this is slightly different from 2008 and earlier as back then individuals would still have to flee from their homes if possible.
Now, the law states that there is no need to ask questions if an individual finds someone in their home that wasn’t invited in.
With that said, he added that deadly force cannot be used to protect property. If someone sees a robber running out of their house with a handful of the homeowners belongings, they cannot chase them while shooting.
Elsworth emphasized that gun owners are responsible for every bullet that comes out of their firearm and that every bullet comes with a lawyer.