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Cleveland City Council members, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan express disappointment in Gov. Mike DeWine signing "Stand Your Ground" bill

“We can see that his talk about reducing gun violence and ensuring racial justice is just talk.”

CLEVELAND — On Monday, Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 175 into law.

According to the legislation, if someone uses a gun in self-defense and shoots someone, a court can’t consider if the person could have just escaped instead of shooting when deciding if the person acted in self-defense.

The new law will go into effect in Ohio in 90 days.

Several Northeast Ohio political leaders have issued statements expressing their frustration at DeWine's decision to sign the bill. 

On Tuesday, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said the following:

I am deeply disappointed in Governor DeWine’s decision to sign Ohio SB 175, the “Stand Your Ground” legislation into law. This legislation will make Ohioans, including law enforcement officers, less safe by encouraging and justifying armed vigilantism in our communities.

Stand Your Ground laws upend centuries of traditional self-defense doctrine and threaten public safety by encouraging armed vigilantism—allowing a person to kill another person in public even when they can clearly and safely walk away from the perceived danger. This law can also justify killing an unarmed person who, in reality, poses no immediate threat. In 79% of Florida Stand Your Ground cases, the assailant could have retreated to avoid the confrontation, and in 68% of cases, the person killed was unarmed.

Stand Your Ground laws are associated with an increase in firearm homicides and injuries and do not deter crime. In Florida, the Stand Your Ground law was linked to a 32 percent increase in firearm homicides and increased both justifiable and unlawful homicide rates. Florida’s law had the largest negative impact on neighborhoods that initially had the lowest homicide rates—turning even the “safest” neighborhoods into scenes of unnecessary tragedy.

In June 2020, Akron declared racism as a public health crisis. The data is clear. Stand Your Ground laws have a disproportionate effect on communities of color and are often used to justify the deadly shooting of Black and Brown Americans, many of whom are unarmed. And these laws are not equitably applied in court— controlling for other factors (such as who initiated the confrontation and whether or not the victim was armed), Florida’s Stand Your Ground cases with minority victims are half as likely to lead to conviction, compared to cases where the victim is White.

Finally, Stand Your Ground laws have successfully been used to justify the shooting of police officers in the line of duty by armed citizens. They make dangerous, complicated situations even more dangerous and complicated for law enforcement officers and citizens alike.

This is not what Akron needs to foster more stable neighborhoods. As our community works toward greater equity and opportunity, this law sends a divisive message that welcomes violence and reduces consequences for deadly mistakes. I wish our leaders in Columbus understood that and would advocate for policies that will actually make Akron and all of Ohio, safer.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Cleveland City Council stated that it is 'disappointed' and 'alarmed' in DeWine's move to sign the bill. 

“I have gone down to Columbus several times to speak against this dangerous bill,” said Councilman Kevin Conwell about earlier versions. “I sent the governor a letter recently about this new bill and told him how dangerous it is. We can see that his talk about reducing gun violence and ensuring racial justice is just talk.”

Councilman Basheer Jones said that the bill will lead to the unnecessary injuries and deaths of black and brown people, who are often unfairly accused of criminality simply by being in a public place.

“How many news stories have there been about police being called because black families were picnicking in a park, or bird watching, or doing their jobs? What will happen now?,” asked Councilman Jones. “I had faith that the governor would veto it. We are disappointed and we won’t forget this.”

You can read Council's entire statement below:

Cleveland City Council members are disappointed and alarmed that Gov. Mike DeWine signed the “stand your ground” bill after he seemingly dropped his efforts against gun violence following the 2019 mass shooting in Dayton.

Until now, under Ohio law, people have been justified in using deadly force in self-defense so long as they aren’t the aggressor, believe they are in imminent danger of death or great bodily harm, and are in their home or vehicle. The new law, which takes effect in 90 days, removes the “home or vehicle” requirement, so a person armed with a gun can open fire in any place, public or private, where he or she is lawfully allowed to be.

The new law means people are no longer required to retreat in the face of perceived danger.

“I have gone down to Columbus several times to speak against this dangerous bill,” said Councilman Kevin Conwell about earlier versions. “I sent the governor a letter recently about this new bill and told him how dangerous it is.

“We can see that his talk about reducing gun violence and ensuring racial justice is just talk.”

Councilman Basheer Jones said that the bill will lead to the unnecessary injuries and deaths of black and brown people, who are often unfairly accused of criminality simply by being in a public place.

“How many news stories have there been about police being called because black families were picnicking in a park, or bird watching, or doing their jobs? What will happen now?,” asked Councilman Jones. “I had faith that the governor would veto it.

“We are disappointed and we won’t forget this.”

The NAACP Ohio State Conference also expressed its anger in DeWine's action on Tuesday. “This is a terrible disappointing action that took place with this legislation becoming law by our Governor. This position part weighs the many positive positions I think we have taken last year. As leader of this State's oldest Civil Right Organization, this will go down as a BIG NEGATIVE in his legislative scorecard," said President Tom Robert in a statement. 

"I have always believed that it is vital that law-abiding citizens have the right to legally protect themselves when confronted with a life-threatening situation. While campaigning for Governor, I expressed my support for removing the ambiguity in Ohio’s self-defense law, and Senate Bill 175 accomplishes this goal. That is why I have signed this bill today,” DeWine said Monday in a statement after signing the bill.

In 2008, lawmakers removed the duty to retreat in a confrontation in one’s home or vehicle, a concept known as “castle doctrine.” Senate Bill 175 expands expand the castle doctrine to almost any place where a person is lawfully present.

If a person does shoot someone else and claim self-defense, the legislation says a court cannot consider the possibility of retreat when assessing whether that person used force in self-defense.

The governor added he was disappointed that the legislature did not include provisions he proposed to make it harder for dangerous criminals to illegally possess and use guns.

"I also support and will continue to seek strengthened penalties for criminals who illegally possess, purchase, and sell guns,” DeWine said. “These are the people who are most likely to use a gun to hurt someone, so it makes perfect sense for Ohio to get tough on those who are out to harm others.”

After the 2019 Dayton shooting left nine dead and 27 injured, DeWine pushed for legislation to bolster the background check system used before a firearms purchase, toughen laws on people in possession of guns if they’ve lost the legal right to wield them, and expand a legal process for courts to temporarily seize guns from people in mental health crises.

With DeWine's signature, Ohio becomes the 36th state to no longer require people to retreat before they can justifiably hurt or kill someone with a gun in self-defense. 

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Editor's Note: The below video aired on January 4, 2021