An Ohio Senate committee plans to pass the "Stand Your Ground" bill by the end of the week. The bill would make it easier for someone to use lethal force in self-defense by removing the duty to retreat in cases where a person feels threatened.
Opponents have said the bill, HB228, would make it easier for people to be cleared of wrongdoing in gun deaths. Democratic senators sitting on the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee pointed to high-profile cases nationwide where "Stand Your Ground" has been used as an argument in court, such as the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida by George Zimmerman.
State Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) says when someone finds themselves in a threatening situation they don't have time to think through all the legal implications.
"People are going to continue to utilize techniques to deescalate a potentially violent situation but it’ll stop the second guessing in a court room later," says Coley, who also chairs the Senate committee.
Supporters also tout the bill's language to shift the burden of proof from the defender to the prosecutor in cases of self-defense. Ohio is the only state where the burden of proof still falls on the defense.
Opponents say this bill will have an especially negative impact on black men who already have a higher gun death rate compared to other races. A study from the Annals of Internal Medicine found that the firearm homicide rate for black men was 37.15 per 100,000. That rate for white men was 1.83 per 100,000 people.
The Senate committee will hold several meetings this week, including one on Tuesday evening for opponents to voice their concerns about the bill. Coley says he plans to hold a vote on the measure and report it out of committee by the end of the week.
The Ohio House overwhelmingly passed the bill in November.
Gov. John Kasich has said he would veto the "Stand Your Ground" bill.