COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Ohio’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” self-defense law officially takes effect Tuesday.
Even though it’s official, it remains a heated topic on both sides.
“It’s going to help Ohioans better protect themselves without first having to retreat,” said Eric Delbert, owner of LEPD Firearms and Range and a central Ohio police officer.
“Stand Your Ground, which is reckless public policy that’s going to make it more dangerous for people in this community,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther.
Previously, Ohio law included a “duty to retreat,” meaning that to claim self-defense, someone had to show that they tried to leave the situation. Ohio’s “Castle Doctrine,” passed in 2008, removed that duty to retreat for people in a lawfully occupied residence or in their vehicle.
Under the new law, there is no longer a duty to retreat if someone is in a place where they are legally allowed to be.
A person who does not start the altercation may use deadly force, if they reasonably believe their life is in danger, or they are at risk for serious bodily harm.
“When it comes to law-abiding citizens who desperately want to do what’s right, they want to know when I use my gun, do I have to look around and figure out can I run away?” said Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield).
Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law in January, after previously signaling that he might veto it. DeWine said he was disappointed the bill did not include provisions to make it harder for “dangerous criminals to illegally possess and use guns.”
Opponents of Stand Your Ground said it will put people in danger, citing a study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons that showed states with Stand Your Ground legislation show an uptick in homicides and justifiable homicides after the bills. Dr. Ahmad Mehran Mostafavifar testified against Stand Your Ground.
“Firearm deaths are a big cause and it’s a preventable cause,” Mostafavifar said, calling the preventable deaths “heartbreaking.”
Delbert said the law gives no one the right to kill anyone else; instead it clears up the law for citizens who are trying to protect themselves.
“The opponents who say this is a ‘shoot first. ask questions later,’ you’re going to end up in jail if you shoot first and ask questions later,” he said.
Ginther voiced concern over what this new law will mean for the city. Columbus is on track for a record number of homicides in 2021 and Ginther believes this could make the situation worse.
“The last thing we need is more guns on the street and, in essence, a free pass for folks to not even retreat from a confrontational situation,” he said.
“The rise in gun violence we’re seeing on our streets is not attributed to Stand Your Ground,” Delbert said. “It’s attributed to a lot of other societal issues.”