COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine Monday signed a piece of gun legislation into law, despite ongoing controversy surrounding one of the bill's amendments that deals with so-called "stand your ground" policy.
Senate Bill 175 initially was drafted to allow churches, synagogues and mosques immunity in self-defense shootings. But before the bipartisan bill passed out of both the State House and Senate, legislators attached an amendment that removes a gun user's duty to retreat before they use deadly force to defend themselves from harm.
"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 written statement issued Monday afternoon. "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 went on in his statement, however, to chastise the General Assembly for not including additional provisions to enhance background checks or other measures that would "make it harder for dangerous criminals to illegally possess and use guns."
"Right now, the national and state background check systems are sometimes missing vital information – things such as convictions, active protection orders, and open warrants," DeWine said. "Requiring the submission of this important information into the background check systems is a common-sense reform that I will continue to pursue."
DeWine's signature on Senate Bill 175 comes after weeks of speculation over whether he would sign the measure. Last week, the NAACP Cincinnati chapter called on the governor to veto the bill, saying the stand-your-ground provision makes the self-defense claim too broad and will disproportionately impact people of color.
"Stand Your Ground legislation will unduly justify the murder of innocent people, particularly innocent Black people whose suspicion of being a threat is actually based on racial prejudice, racial hatred, and racial perceptions, none of which have any basis in fact," wrote Joe Mallory, the president of the local NAACP chapter, in a Dec. 28 statement.
"It gives people the opportunity, if they're afraid, they can kill you," Mallory wrote.
Mallory also said juries are more likely to acquit white defendants than defendants of color when facing homicide charges in cases when self-defense arises.
"Studies have shown that a white person will be able to use self-defense as their defense, and a Black person tries to use the same thing, and they don't end up being able to use that with much success as their white counterparts can," Mallory said.
Supporters of the bill said it clearly outlines when use of deadly force is appropriate.
"One of the things proponents talked about made clear that, no matter the race, creed, ethnic origin or gender of the person using a weapon in self-defense, what they have the right to do and what they don't have the right to do is clear and not subject to potential bias of a jury," State Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, and sponsor of the bill, told WCPO last week.
WCPO 9 News reporter Larry Seward contributed to this story.