Starting in April, Ohioans will have the controversial right to use deadly force in public if they believe their lives are in danger. It’s the latest of the so-called “stand your ground” laws passed in the United States, and Gov. Mike DeWine signed it Monday despite previous threats of a veto.
Senate Bill 175, like other pieces of similar legislation throughout the country, eliminates a gun owner's duty to retreat from a threatening situation before using deadly force. Previously, the only places that Ohioans did not have a duty to retreat were in their homes and cars.
“I think it says to people, ‘You don’t have as much responsibility to control yourself as you did before,’” said Toby Hoover, founder of the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence.
Hoover added she was especially concerned about the chaos the law might create in situations of civil unrest, such as the Black Lives matter protests that swept the country in 2020.
“If (someone) pushes me because I’m in the wrong place, can I go ahead and use force?” she said.
DeWine’s decision to sign the bill was roundly criticized by many — including the NAACP, which warned that the law could lead to more extrajudicial killings of Black people, and Dayton mayor Nan Whaley, who chastised the governor by invoking the memory of the 2019 mass shooting that claimed 10 lives in her city.
“I can’t express my level of disappointment,” she wrote in a statement. “Gov. DeWine came to our city and stood on stage for a vigil for our murdered friends and neighbors, and then told us he stood with our community in our fight against gun violence. Now it seems he does not.”
DeWine had in 2020 warned his state legislature that he would not sign any piece of gun-related legislation until lawmakers took up his Strong Ohio bill, which strengthens background checks and increases penalties for a range of gun-related crimes.
They refused. DeWine expressed his disappointment but signed Senate Bill 175 anyway.
Rob Sexton of the Buckeye Firearms Association said the new law strengthens gun owners’ rights and creates more clarity in tense situations.
“Your first thought will not have to be, you know, whether to run, whether to hide, whether to duck,” he said. “It'll be, ‘What's the best thing I can do to defend myself or a loved one?’”
From his perspective, he said, there’s no reason the self-defense principles that apply in the home shouldn’t apply elsewhere.
“Why not a parking lot?” he said. “Why not a shopping mall? Why not an ATM machine? Like, why are we saying I’ve got the right to defend myself in some places but not in other places?”
People who use deadly force with the stand-your-ground law in mind will still be required to prove in court that their lives were in danger at the time.