SB 237 (Remove Duty to Retreat) gets first hearing

Senate Bill 237, the “Ohio Duty to Retreat Act,” received sponsor testimony on Wednesday. Sponsor Terry Johnson (R) gave testimony explaining the bill and stood for questions from committee members for almost an hour.

Chairman Bill Coley allowed many questions from anti-self-defense Senators, and engaged in long discussions with Senator Cecil Thomas (D) (a former Cincinnati police officer) about self-defense.

Thomas first tried to tie Johnson’s bill to the Dayton mass murders. Johnson responded, “There is no connection at all.”

Because every good person agrees that mass murders are bad, the anti-gun crowd (politically and in the media) go to great lengths to link law-abiding gun owners to mass killers. This time of year, there are many “active shooters” out hunting deer. We must correct everyone, every time someone refers to “killers” as “shooters.”

Thomas tried repeatedly to link citizen self-defense to law-enforcement use of force, especially the training involved. While both may carry a gun to defend life, the role of police is drastically different than citizens, so it logically follows that required training is different. Police also have qualified immunity to protect them from mistakes in difficult situations. Citizens get prosecuted and go to jail and/or get sued for similar mistakes.

Thomas had many hypothetical situations in which a citizen might use force in inappropriate situations and even noted that the bill could justify shooting someone for “any perceived threat.” Johnson strongly noted that has nothing to do with his bill, which only applied to reasonable use of force. Johnson is right. Use of deadly force is only authorized when dealing with a threat of great bodily harm or death, NOT other perceived threats or disputes over parking spaces.

Chairman Coley did point out that through Thomas’ examples, even he agreed that retreat was still an option under the bill, and people were free to retreat if they felt safe doing so, but that if the aggressor continued to attack, it would be appropriate to shoot someone to stop a deadly force threat.

Senator Hearcel Craig (D) brought up racial issues and inter-racial homicides. Johnson noted that the law applies to everyone and does not discriminate against any race; it does exactly the opposite. Indeed the “duty to retreat” is overlooked by many/most prosecutors because it is an absurd requirement for a person under the duress of imminent death. One would expect black legislators interested in racial bias to be championing laws that reduce the opportunity for such bias and put all people regardless of race on equal footing.

Jim Irvine is Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman, recipient of the NRA-ILA's 2011 Jay M. Littlefield Volunteer of the Year Award, CCRKBA's 2012 Gun Rights Defender of the Year Award and the Second Amendment Foundation's 2019 Distinguished Service Award.

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