Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) has signed the so-called "Stand Your Ground" bill, SB175, which removes the requirement for a person to retreat before shooting a person in self-defense. The move comes as DeWine has pushed for more gun regulations.
DeWine signed the bill saying it improves 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. 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," DeWine said in a written statement.
But opponents say what counts as a "dangerous situation" can be subjective and Stand Your Ground can escalate violence against Black people and people of color seen as a threat by racists.
During a House floor debate in December, Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) pointed to studies that show gun violence goes up in states that have "Stand Your Ground" measures.
"These statistics that will tell you, when it comes to this amendment, Black people are going to die disproportionately than White people. And if you feel a certain type of way by me calling out Black people, White people, ask yourself, why?" Howse said.
Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) added the "Stand Your Ground" amendment to the existing senate bill during the lame duck session. He said removing the "duty to retreat" in life-threatening situations expands a person's right to defend themselves, adding that DeWine's signature makes good on a campaign promise.
"In 2018, then gubernatorial candidate Mike DeWine promised the Buckeye Firearms Association at his campaign headquarters in Columbus that he would sign Stand Your Ground legislation. We sent him the most simple and straightforward repeal of Duty To Retreat. Senate Bill 175 provides this simple fix that will protect law-abiding gun owners," Koehler wrote in a statement following DeWine's signature.
DeWine added that while he supported the legislation, he's frustrated lawmakers have not moved on his proposal to toughen laws against repeat violent offenders caught with a firearm. DeWine has been pushing for more gun regulations since the August 2019 mass shooting in Dayton.
Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), House minority leader, said in a written statement, "There’s nothing worse than a coward. Only cowards would pass and sign a bill that has been proven to disproportionately harm Black people. 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."
Gun rights groups issued statements praising DeWine for signing the bill. His support for the legislation came as a surprise given his stance on more gun regulation. There have been reports that DeWine could face a primary challenge in his bid for re-election in 2022.
The bill will go into effect in April.