Gun Laws and Deadly Force

You own a gun and have your Ohio Concealed Carry Weapon (“CCW”) Permit. So far, so good. But what if you must use that gun one night?  Having ridden in a motorcycle club comprised almost entirely of cops and ex-cops and having numerous friends who are cops, here is a little advice. If you brandish a weapon, be prepared to use it. The data are clear that when a person defending him or herself has a gun, the odds escalate dramatically that there will be shots fired. You do not want to brandish a gun just for show of force or for fun.

In Ohio there is a mandatory one or two-year gun specification added to any crime. If you accidentally commit a punishable offense, you might serve one or two years consecutively to another offense (meaning added to any sentence you get, not concurrently).[1] Another complication occurs when you show a gun in the presence of a “bad guy” who also has a gun, chances are the bad guy knows how to use his or her gun better than do you, so you are in trouble.

It is romantic to say you have gun for the protection of family and household, but sadly the data is clear there as well. People who have a gun in their homes are 40-170% more likely to be victims of gun violence than a hero using the gun for protection.[2]  Despite what the National Rifle Association (“NRA”) tells people, this has been true for decades.[3]  It is true that Ohio has a “castle rule” that says that you do not have to flee your own home if there is a home invasion. But happily, armed home invasions are exceedingly rare in most areas of Ohio and the statutes also say that you can use deadly force only where deadly force was threatened against your family or yourself.  You cannot shoot someone simply for entering your home uninvited.

If you are in your car and stopped with your gun/s on-board, always tell the officer when s/he approaches that you are carrying and have a valid CCW (which should always be on your person).  If the weapon is in an unlocked compartment of the vehicle, odds are good the officer can search and look at the gun, should they choose. If the gun is in a locked compartment, you do not have to allow them to search the weapon, though you may and often should allow them to do so to avoid any additional legal encumbrances.[4]

If one fateful night you must use your weapon, immediately call the local police and report the incident afterwards, have your CCW available for inspection, and contact your lawyer as soon as you can.[5]  As in most incidents, say as little as possible without your lawyer present, and do not tamper with or alter the “crime scene”.

The bottom line is this. If you choose to own a handgun, get the training for your CCW[6], go the range on at least a semi-regular basis (preferably with a trainer or more experienced friend), and know your limitations. And always keep the weapon/s and ammo far away from access by children, untrained teens, and family members or friends who might have suicidal tendencies. Once again, if you own a gun and brandish, be prepared to use it.

[1] We had one homicide case at TMBC where our client brandished a gun and shot at his wall to back off his drugged-out son. The bullet went through the wall and killed the son’s girlfriend. She was dead before she hit the ground.  We got a good deal for him on the homicide charge, but he had to serve the mandatory gun spec time, regardless of the other deal.



[4] As a general rule, cops can stop you for almost any reason they choose and search an open vehicle as they choose.  Case law allows them far more flexibility to search a vehicle without a warrant than a house or other fixed structure, since houses can’t drive away and hide as easily. See another many examples Illinois v. Caballes (2014), 543 U. S. 405, 407.

[5] As a close cop friend told me, anyone who owns a gun and does not have a good lawyer on speed dial is either foolish or naïve.

[6] Most states, except Illinois and those in New England, have reciprocity with Ohio, meaning your CCW in Ohio is valid in those states as well.