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Shooting Sparks Questions Over Ohio Self-Defense Laws

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Last month, two teenage boys were shot and killed inside a Dayton garage by a homeowner who says they trespassed on the property. No charges have been filed. Now, the shooting’s raising questions about how Ohio prosecutes self-defense cases.

State lawmakers recently pushed a so-called Stand Your Ground measure that would have protected people who use lethal force if they believe their lives are at risk. That proposal failed to pass.

WYSO’s April Laissle spoke with the Statehouse Bureau’s Andy Chow about the changes lawmakers did make to Ohio self-defense laws and how they could impact this case.

Andy Chow: So now when someone uses lethal force in the case of a self-defense case then it's on the prosecution to prove that that person is guilty. It's the whole idea of that you're innocent until proven guilty. Most states had this self-defense law created this way. Already Ohio is one of the outliers, so, again because of a change that lawmakers made last year, someone who uses lethal force in self-defense, it's now on the prosecution to prove that that person is guilty in some way.

April Laissle: Could this potentially be the first case to challenge that change?

AC: You know it's definitely one of the more high-profile ones. I haven't heard of any other case in the past 10 months to come up since the law passed. So yeah, I'm sure that if a lot of people are keeping an eye on this on this case then this might be the one to look at as how did prosecutors move forward.

AL: Interesting, and now state lawmakers have been talking a lot about gun legislation in the wake of the mass shooting in Dayton. Has there been any discussion about potentially picking this policy up again and perhaps changing it?

AC: There definitely was, and I would I would argue that the momentum in the state house was going more in the direction of gun rights groups or less, reducing gun restrictions. So in the legislature before the shooting in Dayton the Republican controlled House and the Republican controlled Senate was more likely to take another look at the Stand Your Ground bill, and there another bill out there that would allow for permit list carries. So, there are these pro-gun bills that did have a little bit more of the momentum going forward. Those have since been stalled.

Governor Mike DeWine went as far as to say that he does not think that these provisions that would reduce gun restrictions. He doesn't think that it's the right time to move on those right now because he has another plan in place where we know that he wants to pass more gun regulations, which includes expanded background checks and expanding the ability for courts to confiscate weapons.

AL: Andy Chow with the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau, thanks so much for speaking with us.

AC: Thanks April.

Copyright 2021 WYSO. To see more, visit WYSO.

April Laissle is a graduate of Ohio University and comes to WYSO from WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio where she worked as a weekend host and reporter. There, she reported on everything from food insecurity to 4-H chicken competitions. April interned at KQED Public Radio in San Francisco, where she focused on health reporting. She also worked on The Broad Experience, a New-York based podcast about women and workplace issues. In her spare time, April loves traveling, trying new recipes and binge-listening to podcasts. April is a Florida native and has been adjusting to Ohio weather since 2011.