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"Stand Your Ground" Bill Gets First Hearing In Ohio Senate

Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) gives testimony for his bill, SB237, which removes the "duty to retreat" before using lethal force in self-defense.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would remove what's known as the "duty to retreat" in public before shooting someone in self-defense, a law commonly referred to as the "Stand Your Ground" bill.

At the heart of the debate is whether the law would increase or decrease safety. Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) told the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee during the first hearing of his bill, SB237, that it keeps the main prongs of self-defense. Those prongs require an aggressor to display means, intent, and opportunity to do harm, before someone takes action to protect themselves.

"If someone attacks you and they're going to try to kill you and you make a reasonable assumption that that person's trying to kill you then you already have the rights to self-defense so that's already in law. What I'm saying is, you don't also have to run away," says Johnson.

But opponents express concern that this could increase gun deaths in Ohio. Senate Democrats argued that passing the bill could discourage people from finding ways to de-escalate tense situations.

A similar bill has been proposed in the House, HB381, but it has not yet received a hearing.

The House and Senate were close to passing a bill that removed the "duty to retreat" last year, but that section was stripped from a self-defense bill in a Senate committee.

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