State Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) today voted against House Bill (HB) 228, the so-called Stand Your Ground bill, a Republican-sponsored effort to loosen gun safety standards by reducing firearm offenses, making it harder to prosecute gun violence cases and preempting local authority to enact commonsense safety protections for Ohio families.
“HB 228 is based on fear and not facts,” said Smith. “Speaker Smith should not have ended debate early when other representatives, myself included, were waiting to add to the debate on this important issue.”
HB 228 would reverse Ohio’s standard of proof in gun violence cases, requiring the state to prove that a defendant was not using self-defense. In addition, the bill would erode home-rule authority by preempting local control over gun safety regulations. Finally, HB 228 reduces firearm offenses to minor misdemeanors and eliminates certain requirements for those driving with a concealed weapon.
“The facts are as follows,” continued Smith. “First, violent crime trends have decreased considerably – down 16.2 percent since 2005. Second, gun violence is an epidemic playing out across Ohio and this nation. Over the past decade alone, more than 100,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence. Over the same period, nearly 200,000 of our neighbors, friends, and family have committed suicide with a gun. Third, a study of FBI homicide data found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, the shooting of a black person by a white person was found justifiable 17 percent of the time, while the shooting of a white person by a black person was deemed justifiable just over one percent of the time. That is why the NAACP, our nation’s leading civil rights organization, opposes HB 228, and I am proud to stand alongside them and many others, including law enforcement, in opposition to HB 228.
The bill comes amid unprecedented gun violence across the country. The recent massacre in Thousand Oaks, CA marked 307 mass shootings in the then-311 days in 2018. According to USA Today, four of the largest mass shootings in the last 50 years have happened this year alone.”
A sheriff’s deputy was killed in the Thousand Oaks incident, four officers were wounded in the recent killing spree at a Pittsburgh Synagogue and just this week, a black security guard was gunned down by police as he tried to break up a fight at Chicago-area bar. Despite these incidents, gun advocates continue to call for more armed personnel in schools, places of worship and other public spaces across the country.
Democrats offered several gun safety amendments on the House floor, the same measures introduced by Gov. John Kasich in March 2018. Republican lawmakers rejected all the amendments, including proposals to improve background checks and remove guns from those convicted of domestic violence and others who pose a threat to themselves or others.
After passing the House, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration.