In Ohio, a law expanding the use of lethal force in self-defense went into effect, making it the 36th state to implement the ruling.
The “Stand Your Ground” law removes a legal requirement to retreat from a confrontation first before shooting in self-defense. The law expands the “stand your ground” right of self-defense from one’s home or car to any place where a person has the lawful right to be.
However, gunowners still have to meet the standards for using self-defense no matter where they are. Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn said, “They [gunowners] still have to be able to articulate why they felt their life was in danger and needed to protect themselves.”
According to WTOL 11, Governor Mike DeWine was happy to sign the bill. He said, “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. While campaigning for governor, I expressed my support for removing the ambiguity in Ohio’s self-defense law, and Senate Bill 175 accomplishes this goal. That is why I have signed this bill today.”
Ohio joins the majority of states that have removed the requirement to retreat before they can justifiably use deadly force in self-defense.
Wasylyshyn said that the effect on law enforcement is not significant because most of the time law enforcement arrives after the fact.
“We have very few issues with people or no issues with the law-abiding people who are carrying concealed weapons,” Wasylyshyn said. “It’s the ones that aren’t legally carrying that tend be 99 percent of the problem which those people aren’t going to follow rules or laws that you have anyway.”
However, there will be greater legal ramifications resulting from the law, shifting the burden of proof to the prosecution to argue that lethal force in self-defense was not warranted. Currently, in order to use lethal force, the law requires that one is not the aggressor, has reasonable belief they need to use lethal force, it is proportional to the threat, and there is no reasonable opportunity to get away.
Wasylyshyn said he hopes the law will deter people from committing crimes and risking their lives in the process.
“People before had to be able to show that ‘Hey my life was in danger, I didn’t have a way to get away from a situation. My only option was to use deadly force.’ Now it’s going to be up to the prosecutor to show this person wasn’t justified in using it,” he said.
Republican lawmakers and gun rights groups praised the law. Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association that pushed for the law, said, “I’m not making the argument that it makes people safer or that it’s going to reduce crime. To me, it’s about the right to self-defense. If there is any right that each of us have, it’s to defend our own lives.”
Democratic and Black lawmakers were strongly opposed to the law that has generated some controversy across the aisle. “Such laws upend centuries of traditional self-defense doctrine and threaten public safety by encouraging armed vigilantism,” Democratic Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said.
Senator Teresa Fedor said she voted against the bill after hearing concerns from communities of color, believing that it will allow white people to act on their “fear” towards people of color.
“This law, in my opinion, gives permission to shoot first and ask questions later. IT allows an excuse for white people who are fearful of people of color to act on your fear,” Fedor said.
Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones echoed these sentiments, fearing that the bill will lead to unnecessary injuries and deaths of Black and Brown people, who he said are often unfairly accused of criminality simply by being in a public place.
Furthermore, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association testified against the bill, calling it an endangerment of public safety.
“The bill prohibits the jury from considering whether the person could have retreated,” said Louis Tobin, executive director of the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association.