Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs ‘stand your ground’ bill

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signs ‘stand your ground’ bill

COLUMBUS, Ohio—Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday signed a controversial “stand your ground” bill that would eliminate Ohio’s “duty to retreat” before using force in self-defense.

Senate Bill 175, fast-tracked through the Ohio General Assembly last month by DeWine’s fellow Republicans, will make Ohio the 36th state to no longer require people to retreat before they can justifiably hurt or kill someone in self-defense.

The governor had previously indicated that he would veto SB175, as he first wanted lawmakers to pass their package of gun reforms that they had sat on for more than a year. But in a release Monday afternoon, the governor said the measure removes ambiguity in Ohio's self-defense law.

“I have always believed that it is vital that law-abiding citizens have the right to legally protect themselves when confronted with a life-threatening situation,” DeWine said in a statement. The governor added that he signed the bill in a “spirit of cooperation” with the newly seated 134th Ohio General Assembly.

Until now, under Ohio law, people have been justified in using deadly force in self-defense so long as they aren’t the aggressor, believe they are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and are in their home or vehicle. The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, removes the “home or vehicle” requirement, and instead states that the defendant need only be in a place where they lawfully have the right to be.

Proponents of the measure say it empowers law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. The Bakay Firestar Association said in a release that Devine promised him and other gun-rights groups several times that he would sign such a bill.

“While this bill changes one technicality in Ohio law, it does not change the near universal and well-established standard for use of lethal force, nor does it give criminals a free pass to commit violent crimes,” Buckeye Firearms said in a statement.

“Crimes can happen quickly and without warning. Most victims have a split second to react with the best course of action for their survival,” said John Weber, Ohio state director for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, in a statement. “By signing SB 175, Gov. DeWine ensures the law favors victims and not criminals.”

But Democrats, along with some Senate Republicans, have sharply criticized the bill, stating that (among other things) it will lead to more violence and death - especially against minorities.

“Only cowards would pass and sign a bill that has been proven to disproportionately harm Black people,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, an Akron Democrat, in a statement. “Only cowards would support a bill that allows people to shoot first and ask questions later. The blood of the lives lost from the signing and passage of this bill rest solely on those who supported it.”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, said on Twitter that she “can’t express” her level of disappointment with DeWine for signing the bill after he pledged to respond to public calls for him to “do something” against gun violence following a 2019 mass shooting in Dayton.

“Gov. DeWine has made clear he opposes this dangerous policy, but he once again folded to the extreme elements in his own party,” Whaley stated. “‘Our state needs principled leaders who will stand up for what is right -- not what is politically easy.”

DeWine’s gun-reform plan, which he proposed after the Dayton shooting, would create a voluntary state-level background check process for gun sales between private sellers and expand the state’s existing “pink-slip” law to allow authorities to send people with drug or alcohol problems to a psychiatric hospital, where they cannot legally have access to guns. The governor has also asked state lawmakers to toughen state penalties for a number of gun-related crimes.

Republican lawmakers wrapped up their session last month without taking any action on any of those proposals. Newly elected Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, spoke to reporters on Monday about the future of Devin's gun plan.

“I do think that there’s an opportunity to look at some of the issues that the governor brought up in his bill, or the bill that was introduced on his behalf, and to talk about some of the Second Amendment issues,” Huffman said.