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“Stand Your Ground” Gun Laws in Ohio

Introduction

A major change was enacted to Ohio’s gun laws on April 6th, 2021 when a “Stand Your Ground Law” for Ohio went into effect. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine had signed the bill on January 4th, 2021, and the bill went into effect 3 months after that.  Almost a year later, many Ohio residents may be curious as to what was involved in the new law and how the rules have changed from the way things stood in Ohio before January 4th. There have recently been discussions about several revisions to Ohio’s gun laws, but not every proposition meets both requirements of being passed by Congress and obtaining the Governor’s signature. This change to Ohio’s law is important enough that citizens of Ohio should understand what it is, and what it is not.

Senate Bill 175

The Bill in question is technically called Senate Bill 175 (SB175) or “Grant Civil Immunity- Injury, Death, Loss from Carrying Handguns” (as well as the longer name, which is not necessary here). This bill takes away the duty for Ohioans to try to retreat in certain situations before using force in self defense, as long as they have a legal right to be where they are (and as long as the aggression was sufficient to warrant self defense, which is another legal issue).   As always, it is important to note that the law still specifies the use of force “in self-defense, defense of another, or defense of one’s residence.(ORC 2901.09(B))” In most cases, using force for any other reason is not allowed.

The main change to the law is in regards an individual’s duty to retreat; that is, whether or not you are required to attempt to escape to a safer location before using force in a defensive manner. Ohioans now have no duty to retreat if they are anywhere they have a legal right to be. If you attack another person or threaten their safety, the law will usually be on their side if they choose to deflect your aggression with force. As long as they have a legal right to be where they are, they will no longer have the duty to try to escape beforehand. The new law allows Ohioans to “stand their ground.” Not simply protect their home, not simply protect their vehicle, but defend themselves on any ground they can legally claim to occupy at the moment.

Not only does the law change the status quo, even previous versions of the same law would have been different from the law as it ended up going into effect. The Ohio Legislature discussed removing the duty to retreat from places of worship in addition to personal residences and vehicles. However, by the time the bill was signed into law, “a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be” replaced all previous propositions.

 

What the New Bill is Not

For those who have been keeping track of gun laws in Ohio, the provision specifically for religious institutions is not the only recent idea that failed to become law. Most notably was Governor Mike DeWine’s “Common Sense” gun control measures. Governor DeWine had tried to persuade congress to pass these measures after the fatal shooting in Dayton almost three years ago. However, Ohio’s congress never voted on the Governor’s measures and they were not part of the bill that was signed in January of last year. The “common sense” measures would have included reforms to the background checks in Ohio, raised the penalties for violent offenders who had guns, and expand the ability of the courts to confiscate firearms. Even though none of those measures were passed through Congress in Ohio, Governor DeWine still signed the “stand your ground law” rather than vetoing it as he had previously threatened. According to the Governor, he decided to sign the law because he saw it as a law that “removes ambiguity” from the gun laws in Ohio.

 

How the New Bill Differs from Ohio’s Previous Gun Laws

Previously, the law had read, “if the person lawfully is in that person’s residence… and if the person lawfully is an occupant of that person’s vehicle or lawfully is an occupant in a vehicle owned by an immediate family member of that person, the person has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense or in defense of another.” The language in the new bill, “a place in which the person has the right to be,” is quite a significant change, and should be noted by Ohio residents. Despite the Governor ultimately deciding the changes were better than the old laws, some members of the Ohio legislature did oppose the bill, saying that the changes would increase violence and result in more shooting victims, particularly minorities in Ohio. Nevertheless, the law was changed on January 4th, 2021, and went into effect 90 days later.

Gun Laws Going Forward

Now that we are in 2022, Ohio’s government continues to make changes to gun laws.  On June 13, 2022, a “constitutional carry” bill removed the requirement of a permit for qualifying Ohioans over 21 to conceal carry in many situations. There were already 21 States that do not require permits for concealed carry (and North Dakota, which only requires a permit for non-residents to conceal carry).  The “constitutional carry” law in Ohio is covered in this article.

Conclusion

We live in a very eventful time in the history of the world and the history of our country. With so many things going on that take a lot of our attention, it is very possible for citizens to miss changes in their laws when it comes to smaller things, such as marijuana or gun laws. This does not change the fact that knowing the laws of your area is an important step in being a member of your community and staying out of trouble and ensuring that legal issues interfere as little as possible with the rest of your life. Gun laws are an important issue to many throughout the State of Ohio and the rest of the United States. While “Stand Your Ground” laws are by no means unheard of in other States, SB175 is different from previous laws in Ohio. By staying informed, we increase our chances of successfully navigating the laws as they stand, and of staying out of legal trouble along the way.  If you do find yourself in legal trouble or having any type of legal question, feel free to contact Dearie, Fischer & Matthews.

 

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