By LYNN THOMPSON
Gov. Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 175 in to law Monday morning, shifting the burden of proof in favor of self-defense and granting civil immunity to nonprofit corporations when the use of handguns in self-defense result in injury or death.
The new law amends the Ohio Revised Code to state a person has no “Duty To Retreat” before using deadly force in self-defense, defense of another or defense of residence. If a subject is killed or injured while unlawfully entering a home or vehicle, prosecutors must assume the assailant acted in self-defense if there is no evidence to prove otherwise beyond reasonable doubt.
“I have always believed that it is vital that law-abiding citizens have the right to legally protect themselves when confronted with a life-threatening situation,” DeWine said. “While campaigning for Governor, I expressed my support for removing the ambiguity in Ohio’s self-defense law, and Senate Bill 175 accomplishes this goal.”
Luke Allen, who owns Crossed Rifles LLC in Bryan, appreciated the clarification but doesn’t expect anything to change.
“Most of us in the state of Ohio already live a life where there’s not actually a need for it,” he said. “Duty to Retreat means that no matter what, you have to do everything within possibility to essentially run away if presented with a life-threatening encounter. That’s simply not true. You always have the right to defend yourself.
“We didn’t have a true Duty to Retreat Law on the books already,” Allen added. “The fact that we’ve done away with it, and my personal opinion why the Governor signed it, is just to line up with other existing Ohio laws. That’s about it.
“It’s a good thing,” he continued. “In the firearms community, it’s a big step in the grand scheme of giving people what most already consider their natural born right. Not having to run away is a good thing. In the course of running away you can leave somebody else in a position to have harm done to them or put yourself in a position where more harm can be done to you ... Everything should be done to de-escalate a situation, of course. This law doesn’t stop that and it doesn’t mean you can immediately go to deadly force.”
In the end, the new legislation is not likely to alter anyone’s decision about gun ownership or concealed carry options any more than the COVID-19 pandemic already has.
“In 2020 more people bought weapons than any year on record,” Allen said. “At the beginning of the year people were hoarding toilet paper for Pete’s sake. When they go to the store, when things are already scary, and they can’t get the essentials, people start to think they should find a way to protect themselves in case it gets worse. We saw more first-time gun buyers in the store than I’ve seen five years in business. More people last year made statements like ‘I never thought I’d buy a gun; in fact I didn’t even think people should have guns’ but here we are. Records numbers everywhere.”
Even though SB 175 upheld the inherent right of self-defense, DeWine also said he was disappointed that legislatures did not include “essential provisions I proposed to make it harder for dangerous criminals to illegally possess and use guns.”
National and state background checks “are sometimes missing vital information,” he said. “Things such as convictions, active protection orders, and open warrants – that alert law enforcement if they’re dealing with a wanted or potentially dangerous individual. This information is also used by the federal government to alert retailers when a convicted criminal or wanted subject prohibited from possessing a gun tries to buy one. Requiring the submission of this important information into the background check systems is a common-sense reform that I will continue to pursue. It has broad-based support from law enforcement, gun-store owners and the National Rifle Association — which has long said that the background check system needs to be fixed.”