(WKBN) – Ohio has a new Stand Your Ground law. Governor DeWine signed it into law on January 5. There was one change made to the pre-existing law, which removed the language that required someone to retreat from a dangerous situation before using deadly force.
Some people say this new law could be unfair to minorities.
Several members of the Black community have told First News this law would negatively impact minorities, but lawmakers in favor of the new Stand Your Ground law say it makes everyone, regardless of race, safer.
“It’s a commonsense piece of legislation,” said Representative Al Cutrona (R-OH) of the 59th District.
But voices rise on different sides of this law.
“This law is very, very racist,” said Andre Washington, State President of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
“Regardless of your race, your sex, this is something that allows protection for all,” Cutrona said.
Cutrona from Canfield voted in favor of changing the law.
“If the threat is imminent, it’s actually happening and you’re in complete fear for your life, why would you turn around and run from a threat? Where now you become an easier target,” Cutrona said.
First News pulled some numbers on the application of similar laws around the country.
According to a 2015 study on Stand Your Ground laws in Florida by a group of professors from Harvard and two other universities, “the defendant is two times more likely to be convicted in a case that involves White victims compared to those involving non-White victims.”
This law in Florida is what determined the ruling for the George Zimmerman and Trevon Martin case in 2012.
When Zimmerman–on neighborhood watch–shot and killed 17-year-old Martin, who was unarmed, Zimmerman was found not guilty.
“Zimmerman’s case was an outlier and not the norm,” Cutrona said. “We cannot create laws that relate to one situation. We have to look at what is the best for all.”
But one activist says the law should have stayed the way it was.
“The law was fine for years all by itself. We’ve had Stand Your Ground law in Ohio, but the wording where they don’t have to retreat, that’s the problem,” Washington said.
Washington says he’s afraid of how race might factor into the application of this law in court cases.
“This law is giving White folks the ability to not retreat if they feel threatened by me, a six-foot-one Black guy, and they use deadly force because they felt threatened by it. And I’m talking about White America that we saw at the Capitol Building, not the everyday White American that I run into at Krogers and Meijers,” Washington said.
But lawmakers say this isn’t so.
“This bill does not give you a free-for-all. You still are required to follow the rest of the elements that are necessary for self-defense,” Cutrona said.
Ohio is the 37th state to adopt this kind of Stand Your Ground law.
The new version won’t go into effect until 90 days after it was signed, which will be in early April.
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