Ohio Senate bill would take ‘duty to retreat’ out of self-defense law

Ohio Statehouse News
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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Ohio Senate is considering a new bill that would remove the “duty to retreat” from the state’s self-defense law.

The bill, listed as SB 237, would amend five sections of the Ohio Revised Code. According to supporters of the bill, it would also keep someone in a dangerous situation from being unclear on the law when dealing with a threat.

“It adds a burden to someone at a moment when someone shouldn’t be thinking about legalities,” Executive Director Dean Rieck of the Buckeye Firearms Association said. “If someone is about to kill you, you should be concentrating on defending yourself. It’s a confusing part of the law.”

Rieck said the bill wouldn’t change the standard police apply when determining if a shooting was in self-defense or not. He said if a person was in a situation where they could retreat, they would do so.

“Law enforcement will look at you having an honest belief you were in danger or there was an imminent threat and no other option but to use lethal force,” Rieck said. “But if you honestly believe you’re in that situation, it makes no sense to figure out if you need to retreat.”

Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph said the law doesn’t need to be changed.

“It seems to indicate that breaking into someone’s house is a crime worthy of the death penalty if you break it down,” Joseph said. “It’s been brought up in states across the nation but I don’t think folks are paying attention to what the problems (with gun violence) are and the real solutions.

“To stop gun violence you have to do it in ways that data says will be successful and that’s the opposite tact this legislation takes.”

Officials have argued whether “duty to retreat” has affected self-defense situations. Those supporting the legislation say it takes the burden off a person in a deadly situation who has to then argue in a courtroom where people won’t be able to understand the pressure of the situation.

Michael Weinman of the Fraternal Order of Police of Ohio told the Columbus Dispatch the intention behind the current law depends on whether you’re threatened by someone who is armed or unarmed.

“The duty to retreat says that if the other person isn’t armed, you need to let the situation cool down and not pull your gun and start shooting at him because you feel threatened,” Weinman told the Dispatch.

Research by the RAND Corporation said evidence that similar laws in other states led to more total homicides was moderate, but also said evidence of any increase in firearm-related homicides was limited. RAND’s research said there were no statistics to show the legislation reduced homicides.

Joseph said the focus should be on reducing violent crime.

“We’ve found in Dayton the prevalence of drugs is the root cause of violence,” Joseph said. “You reduce the prevalence of drugs, and you reduce addiction.”

Rieck said he expected the bill to pass once it’s up for a vote in the Senate.

WDTN.com contacted several sponsors of the bill and they were unavailable for comment.

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