The Ohio House is expected Wednesday to approve a controversial “stand your ground” bill that eliminates a “duty to retreat” in the face of a threat before someone can legally use deadly force.
Supporters say that House Bill 228, which also includes a number of other gun-related provisions, would put Ohio in line with about half of the other states by shifting the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the defendant to the prosecution.
House Speaker Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, said last spring, prior to the legislature’s break for the summer and the fall campaign season, that the House had a veto-proof majority to pass the bill. However, a vote was delayed until after last week’s elections, although a veto from Gov. John Kasich remains a strong possibility. Kasich has been upset that his fellow Republicans in the legislature have refused to act on his proposals intended to reduce gun violence, including a “red flag” provision to allow a judge to order the removal of guns from people deemed a danger.
The House bill is opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio and the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, plus other gun-control proponents. Critics say it would give those involved in a conflict less incentive to try to de-escalate the situation or escape before resorting to lethal force.
Prosecutors have argued that state law allows those who are truly being threatened with serious harm to use a weapon in self-defense, and it’s reasonable to require a defendant to prove self-defense by a preponderance of evidence — a lesser standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
But supporters, including Doug Deeken, director of Ohioans for Concealed Carry, say removing the “duty to retreat” is a positive, common-sense reform.
“What a ‘duty to retreat’ functionally does is force law-abiding citizens into making tactically poor choices when confronted with a violent, criminal aggressor,” Deeken told a House committee. “While retreating may sometimes, even often, be part of the proper course of action, it is not always so.”
The bill also would eliminate state requirements that K-12 schools, police stations, courthouses, airports and other public locations post signs declaring that they are gun-free zones.
The bill also would reduce certain concealed-handgun violations to minor misdemeanors and further block local governments from passing gun-related ordinances, as Columbus has recently attempted to do.
House passage would send the bill to the Senate. The legislature is in session through mid-December.