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Ohio Legislature Passes 'Stand Your Ground' Gun Bill

guns on display in a gun store
Seth Perlman
Associated Press

A controversial gun law that removes the "duty to retreat" requirement before a person can use lethal force in self-defense was passed by the Ohio Senate, less than a day after the changes were added by the Ohio House.

The bill now heads to Gov. Mike DeWine, but it's unclear if the Republican governor will sign it.

The House's debate over the so-called "Stand Your Ground" law happened well into the night. State Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) proposed the amendment attached to SB175, a separate bill that grants civil immunity for deaths or injuries from handguns.

The amendment took language from his "Stand Your Ground" bill, which Koehler says protects people in dangerous situations.

"My right to defend myself in the United States and in Ohio from serious bodily harm or death should be extended to anywhere I am lawfully allowed to be without a duty to retreat," Koehler says.

The "Stand Your Ground" law gained national attention after the killing of Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager, in Florida.

State Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) argued that gun violence goes up in "Stand Your Ground" states.

"These statistics that will tell you, when it comes to this amendment, Black people are going to die disproportionately than white people," Howse says. "And if you feel a certain type of way by me calling out Black people, white people, ask yourself, why?"

About an hour into its session on Friday, the Ohio Senate approved the House changes to the bill, 18-11. Many Democrats who originally co-sponsored the bill, as well as one Republican, asked for their names to be removed from the legislation.

One of the Republicans who voted against the changes was term-limited state Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), who said the bill does not do anything to decrease gun violence or send the proper message.

“It’s time to put the anger and hatred that seems to be consuming our country aside," Lehner said. "And I think we can do a heck of a lot better than having people pack their guns when they are going out for an evening stroll."

Organizations representing Ohio mayors and Ohio police chiefs have also opposed the legislation, and have called on DeWine to veto the bill if it makes it to his desk. DeWine said in the past that he supports "Stand Your Ground," but wanted the legislature to consider his "common sense" gun reforms first. However, that bill has only received three hearings so far.

Senate President Larry Obhof said he doesn’t know if DeWine will sign the bill.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.