CINCINNATI — The local chapter of the NAACP said it was pushing Gov. Mike DeWine to veto a gun bill advanced earlier this month, for a provision that leaders said is implicitly biased against Black people.
Senate Bill 175 now sits on DeWine's desk. The original legislation gave churches, synagogues and mosques immunity in self-defense shootings. But before the bipartisan bill passed out of both the House and the Senate, state legislators attached a so-called "stand your ground" amendment, which removed the duty to retreat before an individual defends themselves from harm with deadly force.
NAACP Cincinnati president Joe Mallory considers it a "shoot-to-kill bill" that does not account for how prejudice or bias could influence an individual's decision to use lethal force or a jury's decision to accept a shooter's claim to have acted in self-defense.
In a statement issued Monday, Mallory wrote, "(The law) will result in the deaths of more African Americans based solely on the fact that they are unfairly perceived as being a threat ... 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."
He later elaborated, saying the removal of the duty to retreat would allow for too broad a definition of "self-defense."
"It gives people the opportunity, if they're afraid, they can kill you," Mallory said. "All they have to do is be afraid. There's no duty to retreat. You don't have to de-escalate, and it puts people's lives at risk."
Mallory also said he fears implicit racial bias in a jury might lead to more successful self-defense acquittals for white defendants than for Black defendants.
"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.
State Sens. Louis Blessing III, R-Cincinnati, and Bill Coley, R-West Chester, supported the bill, including the controversial amendment. Coley said he "strongly disagrees" with Mallory's characterization.
"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," Coley told WCPO by phone Tuesday.
Days after the bill's passage, DeWine measured his words.
"I've made it very clear, I think... many times going back months, I felt that before the legislature took up other gun bills, focus on what we have in front of us."
NAACP Cincinnati launched an online petition that, as of Tuesday afternoon, had more than 200 signatures.