Speaking before the Ohio Senate’s Government Oversight and Reform Committee, Mitchell Pinsky felt like he’d been through this already.
Pinsky, a second-year in public affairs and city and regional planning and group leader of gun-control organization Students Demand Action at Ohio State, testified at the statehouse Tuesday in opposition to Senate Bill 237.
The stand-your-ground bill, sponsored by Ohio Sen. Terry Johnson (R-14), would allow anyone “not engaged in criminal activity” to protect themselves with “reasonable” force and remove a person’s duty to retreat “from any place where the person is lawfully present.” Ohio law already allows the use of force inside a person’s home or vehicle.
“Self-defense is a basic, natural human right,”Johnson said in a statement when the bill was proposed. “If a law-abiding citizen is in mortal peril at the hands of an assailant, they should not have to bear further burden of attempting to run away or ‘retreat,’ before using deadly force to protect themselves.”
In multiple ways, Pinsky has experienced this before. Previously, he testified at the statehouse against a similar provision — House Bill 228 — in December 2018, and before attending Ohio State, he lived in Florida, the first state to pass the stand-your-ground legislation in 2005.
“Being from Florida, where you have seen ‘Stand Your Ground’ become such a big issue, especially as it was exemplified by the death of Travyon Martin back in 2012, it really — I just don’t want Ohio dealing with ‘Stand Your Ground’ and the consequent racial incidents that it will more likely bring,” Pinsky said.
Typically, self-defense legislation comes with a duty-to-retreat requirement, ensuring that force is used only after a person attempts to de-escalate or escape a situation. Stand-your-ground laws remove this requirement, meaning a person may use deadly force against a perceived threat from the start.
While proponents of stand-your-ground laws said they would ensure public safety, opponents like Chelsi Rhoades, a first-year in public affairs and economy and the membership lead for SDA at Ohio State, argue the opposite.
“Maybe they meant it to help people defend themselves, but it will hurt communities,” she said. “All the research shows that through other states that have stand-your-ground laws or used to have stand-your-ground laws. And it’s just not an effective solution.”
According to researchers at the University of Oxford, Florida homicide by firearm rates increased from .29 deaths to .37 deaths per 100,000 citizens in the nine years after the state enacted its stand-your-ground law, a 31.6-percent increase.
Rhoades also testified against SB 237 Tuesday and said for her, this bill is personal. As a Dayton, Ohio, native, Rhoades witnessed the aftermath of the shooting that killed nine at a city bar in August 2019. Rhoades said she has also lost two grandparents and an uncle to gun violence.
“I’m just really passionate about gun violence because the impact it has on families and communities like mine,” she said. “And losing family members to gun violence is never easy, and nobody should have to go through that.”
For Rhoades, a bill like SB 237 could open the door to more gun deaths and violence.
“There should not be the notion of, ‘Shoot first. Ask later,’” she said. “There’s just no reason for it, like, you are protected through [current] self-defense laws.”
The committee plans to have its fifth hearing on SB 237, date to be announced. For more information on SB 237, visit https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislation/legislation-summary?id=GA133-SB-237.