Ohio Legislature Passes Gun Bill After 'Stand Your Ground' Provision Removed

click to enlarge March for Our Lives, Cleveland, (3/24/2018). - Sam Allard / Scene
Sam Allard / Scene
March for Our Lives, Cleveland, (3/24/2018).

Legislators in Ohio’s state Senate today stripped contentious, so-called “stand your ground” language from a bill designed to loosen gun regulations. The Ohio House adopted the same language.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich had promised to veto House Bill 228, which passed the Ohio House of Representatives 64-26 last month, due to the controversial measure.

The House version of the bill would have removed requirements that Ohio residents try to flee a confrontation before using deadly force in self-defense. Supporters say removing the so-called "duty to retreat" would give Ohioans a better chance to defend themselves in the case of a potentially deadly attack. But opponents, including a number of law enforcement and prosecutors' organizations, say it would encourage escalation of confrontations.

Many critics also say "stand your ground" laws disproportionately disadvantage minorities. The laws have been at the center of high-profile shootings of African Americans by whites, including a case in Florida earlier this year where law enforcement officials cited "stand your ground" when declining to arrest Michael Drejka, who shot Markeis McGlockton after McGlockton pushed him down in a gas station parking lot .

A study by the Urban Institute found that cases where the shooter was white and the person shot was black were 281 times more likely to be ruled self-defense under "stand your ground" laws than when the racial roles were reversed.

Twenty-seven states have codified "stand your ground" into law, and, in another seven, "stand your ground" stands in practice due to past court precedent. Ohio residents currently have no duty to retreat only when they are in their home or vehicle.

The new version of the legislation retains a provision shifting the burden of proof from defendants onto prosecutors when it comes to self-defense claims — a standard observed elsewhere throughout the country. The bill also levies third-degree felony penalties against so-called “straw man” purchasers, or people who buy guns for other people who aren’t allowed to purchase them themselves. Another measure in the legislation would further prohibit municipalities from passing anti-gun laws.

Gun rights groups have decried the changes, while advocates for gun control have criticized elements that remain in the bill.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican, voted against the bill, which passed the Senate 29-10. Lehner says the bill doesn’t do enough to address gun violence.

Chris Dorr of Ohio Gun Owners called the bill “a big nothing burger” without the "stand your ground" language.

Other groups promised to try again. Buckeye Firearms Association President Jim Irvine said the group would go back to work lobbying for a bill with "stand your ground" provisions next session.

Lawmakers have until Dec. 31 to pass legislation before this session of the General Assembly ends.
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