OHIO — The right to “Stand Your Ground" in the state of Ohio has been expanded with Gov. Mike DeWine's signing of Senate Bill 175. The law eliminates the “duty to retreat” before firing in self defense.
“Duty to retreat teaches people and teaches gun owners to not only know how to safely handle and use your firearm, but how to de-escalate situations. That’s one thing that we stress in a lot in our concealed carry classes, is that you really don’t want to use your fire arm, if you don’t have to use it," said CEO of Black Gun Owners Association of Ohio Darius Frierson.
The Black Gun Owners Association of Ohio is an organization that aims to educate communities on gun laws and gun rights. Frierson said he supports responsible expansions of gun rights, but said eliminating the duty to retreat may do more harm than good.
“All this law does is clarify that you do have the right to use deadly force if a forceful felony is going to be enacted on you or if your life is in danger," said Rep. Derek Merrin, who was one of the co-sponsors of the bill.
Merrin said expanding provisions in the legislation may mean a matter of life and death.
“Whether you're in a mall parking lot, or you're walking out of a restaurant or you're, you know, in a park, and you are attacked by a robber, a criminal, rapist — you have the right to defend yourself," Merrin said.
Yet, opponent of the bill Democrat State Sen. Sandra Williams of Northeast Ohio, said while some may feel the bill is needed to keep Ohioans safe, she believes that it actually puts more lives in danger.
“We know the murder rates already in the state are up 17%. They're up from last year. Putting 'Stand Your Ground' laws in place in this state only adds to a gun violence that we have. Some people would not be as quick to pull the trigger as others, and I understand that, but we have a segment of our population who may or may not be that type of person, and they may shoot first, and then worry about the consequences later," Williams explained.
Along with some politicians, organizations such as the NAACP urged the governor to veto the bill. Danielle Sydnor, president of the NAACP Cleveland branch, said the legislation emboldens people who want to do harm, and she fears it will be harmful to people of color.
“When you look at how these laws tend to be legislated, how the laws are actually enforced, who benefits from being able to claim 'Stand Your Ground' as a defense? We just have enough history from enough different states across the country to know this does not bode well for the Black community. It really makes it easier for someone to allege that I was in fear for my life. I felt like I was in imminent danger; this person got aggressive or loud with me in a dispute in the Walmart parking lot or at the dog park, or my dog looked vicious. It allows people to use this where in the past, they know that they would have had to have a more credible defense," Syndor said.
Frierson said since the legislation was signed into law, the organization has seen an increase in interest and sign ups for concealed carry courses. He said he is going to continue teaching the importance of responsible gun ownership and use.
“Get educated on your laws, not just your 'Stand Your Ground,' but get educated on your gun laws, where you can take a gun, where a gun can be brought. These are things honestly I’m going to push now even harder now that 'Stand Your Ground' is in effect, and is coming into effect that you’re covered on all fronts," Frierson said.