Last week the Ohio Supreme Court essentially ruled that current gun laws should not be enforced equally across the population. The decision reinforced a common belief that police officers should not be held to the same standard as the rest of society.
The ruling made by the Ohio Supreme Court held that a specification in a law, which provides stiffer penalties for individuals using guns in the commission of a crime, cannot be applied to a cop convicted of a criminal act while on duty.
Isn’t that a convenient ruling for police officers?
The case involved an Ottawa Hills police officer, Thomas White, who shot a motorcyclist he had pulled over for a traffic stop, leaving him paralyzed.
White contended he thought the man was reaching for a weapon as White approached the motorcycle, according to the court record. It turned out the motorcyclist had no gun.
White was convicted of felonious assault and sentenced to seven years in prison. The court sentenced him to three additional years, as state law specifically requires when a person uses a gun in the commission of a crime.
An appellate court overturned White’s conviction, holding that use of the gun specification in this case was unconstitutional. It also found that the trial court erred when it barred White from testifying about offenses he thought the motorcyclist had committed leading up the the shooting and also erred in its jury instructions on use of force.
Prosecutors in Lucas County appealed to the Supreme Court.
Let’s examine the specification to this law, which more harshly penalizes criminals who use a gun when committing a crime. Is it logical for an individual planning to commit a crime or someone carrying out a crime without forethought to be deterred to use a gun, since they’re already breaking the law? No, it is complete nonsense. Someone breaking the law is not going to change their mind based on this specification.
Additionally, it is immoral to add a specification to a law which further punishes the use of a gun, over a knife, baseball bat, or anyone other weapon. What characteristics make a gun inherently worse than these other weapons? Someone robbed at gun point or knife point has had their money taken under the threat of personal harm. A crime is a crime, no matter what type of weapon is used.
But if a terrible law exists, then it should at least be enforced equally across the populace, with no exceptions based on job duties.
Justice Terrence O’Donnell, writing for the majority, claimed the specification was to deter criminals from using firearms, but does not apply to cops who commit a crime while protecting themselves, fellow officers, or the public.
“A firearm specification is not intended to deter a peace officer from possessing a firearm, because the officer is required to carry a firearm and permitted to use it, when necessary, in the course of carrying out the duties of a law enforcement officer,” O’Donnell wrote. “The General Assembly did not intend the firearm specification to apply to a police officer who fired a gun issued to him to protect himself, fellow officers, and the public from a person he thought was about to brandish a weapon.”
A gun specification could apply to an officer, O’Donnell wrote, if the facts showed the officer engaged in criminal activity that was beyond the scope of his official duties. He cited as an example an officer robbing a drug dealer at gunpoint.
The opinion written by this justice is dangerous and immoral. The justices holding majority opinion believe that even though the officer killed an unarmed man that he should not be held to the same standard as the rest of society simply because the officer was performing “official police duties.” This sets a very dangerous precedent in the state of Ohio. As long as an officer can claim they are performing official duties, then they are granted exemptions and held above the rest of society.
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