Today, the Ohio State Senate Committee on Government Oversight and Reform held a hearing on so-called Stand Your Ground legislation that would upend traditional self-defense law in Ohio and allow a person to shoot to kill in public, even when there is a clear and safe alternative. The hearing is a reflection of how far the conversation in the State House has moved since Governor Mike Dewine urged legislators to take up gun violence prevention legislation after the Dayton mass shooting, before abandoning core parts of his proposal.
A bipartisan bill to require background checks on all gun sales, SB 183, was introduced in the Ohio Senate after the Daytorn shooting, as was a bipartisan red flag bill, SB 184. Neither bill has received further debate after an initial hearing.
Research has shown that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with increased firearm homicides and injuries and are not shown to deter crime. An average of 523 people in Ohio die by gun homicide every year. This number would likely increase if a Stand Your Ground law is passed, as we saw in Florida.
“Rather than debate a dangerous law that would take us backward, the Senate should instead focus on life-saving bills with broad support, like background checks and red flag laws – bills the Governor promised to prioritize. Ohioans want their lawmakers to strengthen our gun laws and make our communities safer,” said Kristine Woodworth, a volunteer with the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Under current Ohio law, a person can use force, including deadly force, to defend himself anywhere. But when in public, a person cannot use force likely to kill or seriously injure someone if there is a safe way to avoid the danger. The Stand Your Ground legislation that is being considered today would upend traditional self-defense law in Ohio and allow a person to shoot to kill in public, even when there is a clear and safe alternative. Stand Your Ground laws give everyday citizens more leeway to shoot than the United States military gives soldiers in war zones.
On Aug. 6, following the tragedy in Dayton, Gov. DeWine announced he was calling on the state legislature to put forward life-saving, common-sense legislation to expand background checks and create red flag laws.
Ohio lawmakers have since introduced SB 183, bipartisan legislation that would require background checks on all gun sales, with reasonable exceptions, and SB 184, bipartisan Red Flag legislation that would permit immediate family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court for an order temporarily removing guns from people who are at risk of harming themselves or others. But the governor has not backed either bill, and the proposals he announced in October would not create a new background check requirement or give families new tools to intervene when a loved one is in crisis.
Additional background on “Stand Your Ground” legislation:
Last month, the RAND Corporation released a follow up to its Gun Policy in America research initiative, noting that additional studies have reinforced RAND’s findings last year that Stand Your Ground laws are associated with increased homicides and are not shown to prevent violent crime.
Florida adopted the country’s first Stand Your Ground law in 2005. Research shows that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was associated with a 32 percent increase in firearm homicide rates. Staggeringly, nearly 60 percent of those who have invoked Stand Your Ground in Florida had been arrested at least once before they killed someone. In 79 percent of Florida Stand Your Ground cases, the person who invoked Stand Your Ground could have retreated to avoid the confrontation. In 68 percent of those cases, the person killed was unarmed.
This increase in gun violence and homicides has occurred in states across the country that have passed Stand Your Ground laws. In fact, at least 30 people nationwide are killed each month as a result of Stand Your Ground laws. Stand Your Ground also has a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Research shows that when white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white.