As many as 60 people gathered Thursday night to confirm a message they want to send to communities throughout the Gem City: Fight against state legislation that would create an Ohio “stand your ground” law.
The legislation, House Bill 203, was introduced June 11. If passed it will expand the circumstances under which a person has no duty to retreat before using lethal force in self-defense.
The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, which has launched a petition drive against HB 203, says the bill is nearly identical to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, which led to George Zimmerman being found not guilty in the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in.
The gathering Thursday night at Corinthian Baptist Church, on James H. McGee Boulevard, was a town hall forum to discuss the language in the pending bill and drum up support to fight the bill.
“The NAACP isn’t totally against HB 203, but will vehemently oppose stand your ground language” in the bill, said Derrick Foward, Dayton Unit NAACP president. That organization was a forum co-sponsor.
Tom Roberts, local unit NAACP third vice president, said, “we want the community to know about it so they can oppose the bill.”
Roberts, a former member of the Ohio General Assembly, said as he sees it, there needs to be clarity on what Ohio is doing currently on the Castle Doctrine.
Under Ohio’s Castle Doctrine, which part of Senate Bill 184, there is an affirmative defense provision. If a person finds someone breaking into their vehicle or home, for example, the owner can use deadly force. The person has to be in fear for their life, or someone else’s, to act within the boundaries of the doctrine.
There is stand your ground language in SB 184. Different states have different versions of the doctrine on their books.
There have been several forums to mobilize the campaign against HB 203, Roberts said, and there will be more such gatherings.
“We want to make sure it doesn’t go any further” than the House, he said of HB 203. “We want to make sure the ‘duty to retreat’ language comes out of the bill,” he said.