An individual’s duty to retreat before using force has been eliminated in Ohio under a gun rights bill signed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday despite the governor's vocal concerns that GOP lawmakers were ignoring his own legislation proposed following the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton.
The measure expands the so-called “stand your ground” right from an individual’s house and car to any place, “if that person is in a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be.”
As recently as last month DeWine hinted he might veto the bill, saying lawmakers should focus on what he sent them instead. But on Monday, he signed the bill in “the spirit of cooperation” with the General Assembly.
“I look forward to working with members of the legislature in the future to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and to protect the rights of citizens who follow the law,” DeWine said.
He said he was disappointed lawmakers didn’t add the measures he sought for more than a year that would toughen background checks and boost penalties for felons committing new crimes with guns.
The governor has pushed these proposals since the Aug. 4, 2019, Dayton massacre that killed nine and wounded more than two dozen.
Nan Whaley, the Democratic mayor of Dayton and a sometime ally of the governor, said she couldn't “express my level of disappointment" and accused him of giving into extremists in his own party. Shortly after the Dayton shooting, she and DeWine pledged to work together on a bipartisan effort to change gun laws.
“Our state needs principled leaders who will stand up for what is right — not what is politically easy,” Whaley tweeted.
Sen. Kenny Yuko of Cleveland, the top Senate Democrat, called Monday “a sad day.”
“This is not what people meant when they asked us to ‘do something’ last year after the deadly mass shooting in Dayton,” Yuko said in a tweet.
Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, the top House Democrat, went further, calling DeWine “a coward.”
“Only cowards would pass and sign a bill that has been proven to disproportionately harm Black people,” added Sykes, who is Black.
The Buckeye Firearms Association praised the move, saying DeWine kept multiple promises, both publicly and privately with the association, to sign the bill.
“We’re very pleased the Governor kept his promise to sign the repeal of Ohio’s duty to retreat law that forces victims of violent crime to retreat before they’re legally able to defend themselves,” said Dan Rieck, the group's executive director.
Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Springfield Republican who championed the change, also noted that DeWine’s action kept a promise to enact the legislation. He called the measure a simple fix of existing law “that will protect law-abiding gun owners.”
Ohio becomes the 36th state with a similar measure, said two Republican supporters, state Sen. Tim Schaffer of Lancaster and state Sen. Terry Johnson of McDermott in southern Ohio.
Farnoush Amiri, a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative, contributed to this report. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.