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Ohio


“Stand Your Ground” passes Ohio House
Ohio's version of "Stand Your Ground" would eliminate the so-called “duty to retreat” requirement, which says a person who feels threatened must attempt to escape before using deadly force.
by WKSU's STATEHOUSE BUREAU CHIEF KAREN KASLER


Reporter
Karen Kasler
 
Early on, gun supporters backed Terry Johnson's efforts to establish "stand-your-ground" in Ohio.
Courtesy of Ohio Public Radio
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In The Region:
A measure that’s called Ohio’s version of “Stand Your Ground” has passed the Ohio House, after two hours of passionate arguments and a mid-debate protest. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports.
LISTEN: The pitched battle over Ohio's stand-your-ground bill

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The bill would eliminate the so-called “duty to retreat", which says a person who feels threatened must try to escape before using deadly force. And it expands the situations beyond homes and cars in which weapons can be used. They now include any places where a person is legally allowed to be, such as streets and stores.

The bill's sponsor is Republican Rep. Terry Johnson, who took issue with the way some Democrats have characterized the bill. 

“There’s no 'kill-at-will' here," Johnson insisted. "This is not an expansion of castle doctrine.”

'Somebody's going to die'
Johnson said the Ohio bill differs from Florida law, which has been singled out by critics after the trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted in the shooting death of teenager Trayvon Martin. But critics weren’t buying that. Fred Strahorn is a Democrat from Dayton. 

“We forget that our actions have weight; there will be consequences," Strahorn said. "You pass this -- somebody’s going to die because of this. Absolutely. It’s already happened. George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin are not an isolated case.”

Democrat Alicia Reece from Cincinnati said she supports the right to bear arms, but also said she represents 10,000 people who signed a petition to stop the bill. 

“We know what the provision in House Bill 203 – the “stand your ground/kill at will” provision, we’ve already seen what it does when it goes wrong," Reece said. "We’ve already seen when we allow citizens to become judge, juror and executioner.”

Safeguards in Ohio
But sponsor Terry Johnson said existing Ohio law prevents such a scenario. 

“Those who say that this change will encourage people to take up vigilantism are flat-out wrong," Johnson said. "Despite this change, Ohio will still be one of the hardest states in the union to prove self-defense in a court of law. That’s because our burden of proof for demonstrating self-defense is so much higher than in most states.”

Democrats remained unconvinced. Bob Hagan of Youngstown said he had voted for the creation of concealed-carry in Ohio, but said this bill will bring needless violence. 

'Come out of the suburbs'
“Come to Youngstown and Cleveland and Cincinnati," Hagan said. "Come out of the suburbs, folks, and see what the heck is going on. And you will see exactly what is going on – the fear that we have in passing legislation that does absolutely nothing but get the people that supported this so excited that supported you, like the NRA.”

But Republican Matt Lynch said the Democrats were using “scaremongering and radical accusations” in describing the bill, which he said includes mostly common-sense reforms along with a needed change in the duty to retreat provision. 

“Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, if anyone ever proposed that in order to exercise your First Amendment rights, that you need training, or that somehow the government would have to approve of what you’re going to do in advance," Lynch said. "We’d never stand for that. We’d never stand for that when it comes to our right to worship, either. Ah, but when it comes to gun rights, somehow it’s OK.”

Six Democrats join all Republicans
The debate was interrupted at one point by protesters who oppose the bill, as captured by reporter Mark Kovac for his Ohio Capital Blog site. 

“O-H-I-O! Stand Your Ground has got to go!”

They unfurled a banner that read “Vote No on Stand Your Ground”, which was pulled up quickly in accordance with House rules. The proceedings resumed a few moments later after the demonstrators were led from the balcony out of the chamber. In the end, the bill passed overwhelmingly, with six Democrats joining all the Republicans in voting for it.

It now moves on to the Ohio Senate.

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