COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — With a more supportive governor in office, Ohio Republican lawmakers are once again pursuing a “stand-your-ground” law that would allow gun owners to use deadly force without having to back away first when they perceive a threat.
The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee held sponsor testimony on a bill Wednesday introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson, a Portsmouth Republican, with the support of Republican Senate President Larry Obhof, of Medina.
The Ohio House passed a similar bill last year but it never got through the Senate because of a veto threat by then-Republican Gov. John Kasich. Current Republican Gov. Mike DeWine is viewed as more supportive of such a measure, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
The proposed legislation would eliminate a provision in Ohio law that says someone has a “duty to retreat” before using deadly force. The bill would expand when Ohioans currently have no duty to retreat, such as their homes, to include places like businesses and public parks.
“I believe that people should be able to use necessary force in order to defend themselves,” Johnson testified. “We in Ohio have a duty to defend the United States Constitution, and the people who are using their Second Amendment rights.”
The bill includes a provision justifying the use of force when a person “reasonably believes that another person is committing or about to commit a forcible felony” such as murder, abduction or rape, according to an analysis by the Ohio Legislative Services Commission.
Senate Democrats, such as Cincinnati’s Cecil Thomas, a former Cincinnati police officer, expressed doubts about the bill. He said he could think of many situations where situations could have escalated into violence if someone had not walked away.
Thomas said that if people think they don’t have to walk away, “someone is going to end up being murdered.”
Sen. Teresa Fedor, a Democrat from Toledo, said she thought the legislation would lead to an increase in violent encounters.
Johnson said people would still have to prove they used deadly force in self-defense.
“You can still walk away,” he said. “What this bill says is you don’t have to. Your first duty is not to walk away but to defend your life.”