Ohio governor signs 'stand your ground' bill eliminating duty to retreat

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reversed course on his veto warning Monday and signed a gun rights bill expanding the right to “stand your ground” into law.

The bill eliminates a duty to retreat before firing in self-defense at any place, including businesses, places of worship or protests. The state of Ohio previously allowed residents to “stand their ground” only in their homes or vehicles.

DeWine, a Republican, said he signed the GOP-backed bill with reservations in a “spirit of cooperation.”

“It is vital that law-abiding citizens have the right to legally protect themselves when confronted with a life-threatening situation,” DeWine said in a statement. “I am very disappointed, however, that the legislature did not include in this bill the essential provisions that I proposed to make it harder for dangerous criminals to illegally possess and use guns.”

Last year, the governor urged lawmakers to set the bill aside after a mass shooting in Dayton left nine dead and 27 people injured. The tragedy prompted DeWine to propose a massive overhaul of the state’s gun policies, also known as STRONG Ohio, that aimed to reduce gun violence.

The plan, which died after being in committee for more than a year, consisted of increasing penalties for illegally owning firearms, removing guns from people who were deemed at risk of hurting people and enhancing state and federal background checks.

In early December, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl and civil rights groups urged DeWine to vote against the “stand your ground bill,” NBC affiliate WDTN reported.

Later that same month, DeWine hinted he would reject the “stand your ground” bill, WOSU public media reported.

"I made my position very clear that we should not be taking up bills like that, when we have bills that have been in front of the legislature for a year where we have really the opportunity to directly save lives," DeWine said at the time.

The governor’s decision was denounced by gun control advocates, including many civil rights groups and Whaley.

Among the opposition was a coalition of nine Ohio-based national advocacy organizations, including the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, Amnesty International USA and March for Our Lives Ohio.

"There is no debate over this bill and these policies: Stand Your Ground laws make communities less safe. They increase violence and homicides and are more likely to be used to legally ‘justify’ the murder of people of color,"the coalition said in a statement.

"I can't express my level of disappointment," Whaley said in a statement. "Gov. DeWine came to our city and stood on stage for a vigil for our murdered friends and neighbors, and then told us he stood with our community in our fight against gun violence. Now it seems he does not."

“‘Stand your ground’ will make Ohio less safe — full stop. Our state needs principled leaders who will stand up for what is right — not what is politically easy,” she said.