The Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill on Wednesday to eliminate a person’s duty to retreat before using force in self-defense.
Currently, the Ohio Revised Code recognizes a duty to retreat unless a person is in his/her house or vehicle (an exception known as “the castle doctrine”). The new House bill would broaden this exception into a “stand your ground” law: “…the person has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of that person’s residence, if that person is in a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be.”
The House bill includes some minor exceptions, but generally provides that a person is justified in using force if he or she “reasonably believed that the force was necessary to prevent injury, loss, or risk to life or safety.”
The bill would also modify the burden of proof necessary to establish self-defense. Under the current code, the defendant must show that the use of force in self-defense was necessary by a preponderance of the evidence; the bill would require the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-dense.
The bill also includes various other gun-related provisions: it restricts local governments from regulating handguns and lifts the requirement that public places that prohibit guns display “gun-free zone” signs.
The bill passed with a vote of 62-35, despite opposition from a range of public interest groups including Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.
The Ohio Senate will now have the chance to review and vote on the bill. Even if the Senate approves the bill, Ohio Governor John Kasich has asserted that he will veto any “Stand Your Ground” legislation. Kasich has called the bill “extreme” and instead favors a Red Flag Law that would allow people to petition the court to temporarily remove firearms from family members or close acquaintances who may be a danger to others or themselves.
Kasich’s successor, Mike DeWine, will take office in January 2019 and may view “stand your ground” legislation more favorably.