Ohio Representative Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) introduced House Bill 203 (HB 203), which would “expand the locations at which a person has no duty to retreat before using force in self-defense,” automatically recognize concealed handgun licenses issued in states that accept Ohio concealed handgun licenses, and make other changes to firearm restrictions, this June.
In an interview with Media Trackers, Rep. Johnson explained that the self-defense provisions of HB 203 are a logical extension of current Ohio laws.
“I see the federal, constitutional amendment, the Second Amendment, as a basic, inviolable human right,” Johnson said. “I think that amendment to the United States Constitution was specifically placed there — one of the major reasons it was placed there, in the Constitution — was to make sure that people would be able to defend themselves.”
“No one could really violate that — the right to keep and bear arms, have a militia, all the different things — it says that ‘shall not be infringed,'” Johnson added.
Rep. Johnson continued, “Self-defense is the reason we have a Second Amendment, you know, starting at that point.”
“Down in Southern Ohio where I live, and a lot of rural places where people live, we’re a great distance from the deputy sheriff or the state patrol being able to get to us. If we’re gonna wait for someone to come and save us, 20 or 30 minutes, that person who’s killed you is long gone.”
“You need to be able to defend yourself, you need to have a clear idea that this is a basic right that you can exercise at that moment, at that time,” Johnson said.
During a panel discussion held at ComFest at the end of June, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence (OCAGV) Director Toby Hoover described HB 203 as an attempt to “make Ohio a Zimmerman state” — a reference to Florida resident George Zimmerman, whose fatal shooting of a teen has become a talking point for gun control advocates nationwide.
Hoover opined “the most bothersome” detail of the case was that Zimmerman apparently acted in self defense instead of fleeing, making an unfounded assertion that escape was an option.
After Zimmerman was acquitted by a Florida jury on July 14, Hoover issued a release stating that “the verdict for America is guilty of allowing gun laws that give the Zimmermans permission to kill.”
In 25 states, including Florida, individuals are legally permitted to respond with force when faced with certain forms of assault.
In Ohio and 17 other states, victims of felony assault are not required to retreat before defending themselves or their families, but only if the attack occurs in the victim’s home — a legal principle called the “castle doctrine,” based on English Common Law.
HB 203 currently awaits consideration in the House Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee. Two members of the committee, Assistant Majority Floor Leader John Adams (R-Sidney) and Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), are among the bill’s 15 cosponsors.