By: Teresa Mull
Ohio’s legislature is considering a “Stand Your Ground” bill. The bill’s language states:
(A) A person who uses or threatens to use reasonable force, including deadly force, in accordance with section 2901.09 or 2901.091 of the Revised Code shall be immune from arrest, the filing of criminal charges, criminal prosecution, or civil action arising from the person's use or threatened use of the reasonable force, including deadly force.
“House Bill 381, co-sponsored by state Rep. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, received a hearing Tuesday afternoon,” reports The Dayton Daily News. “House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who has the power to block or move any bill, said no decision has been made yet on whether the legislation will get a floor vote this week.”
Liberals are referring to the bill as the “Kill at Will” bill. Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron wrote in a statement:
“By putting the so-called Stand Your Ground or Kill at Will bill on the agenda during a week of chaos and racial unrest, Republican leadership is showing Ohio what their true values and priorities actually are. The decision to hear this bill also tells the thousands of Ohioans who have flooded the streets in towns and cities all over the state that their voices do not matter.”
Many states have some sort of Stand Your Ground law on their books. FindLaw.com reports on the different types of self-defense laws:
- Stand Your Ground: No duty to retreat from the situation before resorting to deadly force; not limited to your home, place of work, etc.
- Castle Doctrine: No duty to retreat before using deadly force if you are in your home or yard (some states include a place of work and occupied vehicles)
- Duty to Retreat: Duty to retreat from a threatening situation if you can do so with complete safety
John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, noted in Townhall that black Americans are more likely to protect themselves with Stand Your Ground than other races:
Florida is one state that has very detailed data on the races of those who have used Stand Your Ground defenses. Blacks make up 16.7% of Florida’s population, but they account for 34% of defendants who invoke the Stand Your Ground defense. Black defendants who invoke this statute are actually acquitted 4 percentage points more frequently than white defendants who do so.
The Tampa Bay Times collected 119 cases, from 2006 to October 2014, in which people charged with murder relied on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Seventy-six percent of the black defendants had killed other blacks. Most of the people who were acquitted of murdering a black person were themselves black. About 64% of blacks who raised the Stand Your Ground defense were not convicted, compared to 60% of whites.
But requiring people to make an “appropriate retreat” can really make things confusing. Overzealous prosecutors sometimes argue that people who defended themselves could have retreated even farther. But it’s very hard for an outside observer to put themselves in the shoes of someone in a life-and-death situation.
Over 30 states have adopted laws that remove the requirement to retreat. Some states have had these laws since their inceptions. Before the famous 2012 Trayvon Martin case, these laws were overwhelmingly supported across racial lines. The irony is that George Zimmerman never used the Stand Your Ground law in his defense. Zimmerman was on his back and had no option to retreat, so the law was completely irrelevant.
Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.