Ohio governor signs gun bill expanding ‘stand your ground’ rights

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in Columbus, Ohio
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks in Columbus, Ohio, following a mass shooting in Dayton in August 2019.
(Joshua A. Bickel / Columbus Dispatch)

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 despite his complaints that GOP lawmakers were ignoring his own proposed legislation following a mass shooting in Dayton last year.

The measure expands the right to “stand your ground” from an individual’s house and car to any place where “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 he signed the bill Monday in “the spirit of cooperation” with Ohio’s Legislature.


“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 that lawmakers did not add the measures he sought for more than a year, which 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, massacre in Dayton that killed nine people and wounded more than two dozen.

Dayton, Ohio, police work to pin down why a 24-year-old gunman killed nine people, including his sister, in a shooting rampage in a popular nightlife area during the weekend.

Aug. 5, 2019

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 in to 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.


State 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.

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — High school classmates of the gunman who killed nine people Sunday in Dayton, Ohio, say he was suspended for compiling a hit list and a list of girls he wanted to sexually assault.The accounts from two former classmates emerged after police said there was nothing in the background of 24-year-old Connor Betts that would have prevented him from purchasing the rifle used in the attack.Both former classmates told The Associated Press that Betts was suspended after a hit list was found in a school bathroom.

State Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, the top Democrat in Ohio’s House of Representatives, 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 Assn. praised the move, saying DeWine had kept multiple promises that he had made, 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.


State 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.