Ohio Senate committee holds hearings on ‘stand your ground’ legislation

Ohio Statehouse Newsroom

Lawmakers in the Ohio Senate have begun considering House Bill 228, a duty to retreat bill considered by some to be a Stand Your Ground bill. It could receive a vote on the Senate floor later this week.

Monday was day one of up to four days of testimony this week.

Supporters of the measure were given an opportunity to express why they think it is necessary to remove the duty to retreat when confronted with a deadly situation; opponents will get their say Tuesday.

The executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association made their position very clear.

“We’re trying to clean up the law,” said Rieck. “Currently there is several, I would call them errors in Ohio law, we have a duty to retreat in self-defense for example, and we are trying to get that eliminated.”

The elimination of the duty to retreat is the most contentious part of the bill which carries several other parts, including a change to trial law.

Currently, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt a defendant killed someone. If that defendant chooses to use the affirmative defense of self-defense they must show that it is more likely than not they acted appropriately.

That is called a preponderance of the evidence. Some attorneys argue that the prosecution should not only have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant killed someone but also that they did not do so in self-defense.

Ohio is the only state in the nation that still operates in this way, and has been doing so for more than 200 years.

Chairman of the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee William Coley II was pleased with how the hearings went.

“[Proponents] presented good arguments in support of the bill,” said Coley. “I think some good issues were presented as far as some things that might need to be tweaked on the bill to get them ready for passage, but I thought today’s hearings went really well. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s hearings.”

Tuesday’s hearing will be a rare opportunity for Ohioans because it will be held at 7:00 in the evening.

“We’re hoping that it will give a lot more people an opportunity to be here and hear what’s being decided, and hopefully have time to speak their mind on this issue because it’s very, very, big concern for us,” said Tara Talgar with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Columbus chapter.

Their concerns are not falling on deaf ears according to Coley, and he had this to say about the bill’s passage.

“It’s not a forgone conclusion and I would say it’s much more likely than not that this bill will be amended.”

Coley wants the military standard for when it is acceptable to use deadly force added to the bill as the benchmark for when someone would be allowed to stand their ground.

That amendment could be added in committee or on the Senate floor right before the bill is voted on by the full chamber should it get that far.

Hearings on the stand your ground bill are scheduled at the Statehouse for Tuesday night, as well as Wednesday and Thursday mornings if necessary. It could be voted on by the full Senate by the end of the week.

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