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Ohio House passes controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ bill

COLUMBUS -- State lawmakers are one step closer to changing Ohio’s laws regarding self-defense. Wednesday, the Ohio House of Representatives passed what is often called the “Stand Your Ground” bill.

Critics say the law will turn Ohio into a “shoot first” state and make it harder to prosecute gun violence.

Supporters say it will help Ohioans better protect themselves and their families against harm.

House Bill 228 passed 64 to 26.

The law states that a person would have no duty to retreat first if they shoot someone in self-defense. As written now, the law limits that protection only to a person who feels threatened inside their house or vehicle.

"I think it's a good thing as long as it's not abused," said gun owner Mike Zubic.

FOX 8 spoke to gun owners at Stonewall Limited Gun Shop in Broadview Heights.

"I think we have a right to defend ourselves and our property, but there's also an obligation to balance that against the very serious consequences of harming somebody or potentially killing somebody," Zubic said.

"If somebody's got a knife or a gun at me, I don't know that I would want to retreat because why would I give them a target to aim at or to stab or whatever," said Stonewall president Diane Donnett.

"If it's a duty to retreat bill and there's only two people there and someone said 'well, I feared for my life' and other person is dead, who do you believe?" asked Democratic State Representative Stephanie Howse of Cleveland.

Several lawmakers spoke against the proposed change in the law.

Rep. Howse fears it could be hurtful to African Americans.

"What do you do in places and spaces where your presence, literally your face, your face causes someone to be fearful of you," Howse said.

"There is a crisis in our country and in this state, but this bill is what's given to us as the anecdote to make it easier to kill someone," said Democratic State Representative Nickie Antonio of Lakewood.

The bill would also shift the burden of proof in gun violence cases.

Instead of a defendant having to prove they shot someone in self-defense, prosecutors would have to prove he or she was not.

"Our constitution says that you're innocent until proven guilty, so why is it you're guilty until you gotta prove you’re innocence? That's not the way it works against the criminals," said Donnett.

According to the bill’s sponsors, the measure would bring Ohio in accordance with 38 other states that have similar laws. The measure must now go to the state senate for a vote.

Republicans Sarah LaTourette of Chesterland and Terry Johnson of McDermott, who sponsored the legislation, hope it is signed into law by the end of the year.

More on Ohio's gun laws, here.