Ohio House Democratic state lawmakers 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.
“This free pass on gun violence makes us all less safe,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Instead of listening to the thousands of students, parents and families who’ve spoken out and marched for commonsense gun safety measures, we’re turning our backs on them with this divisive, tone-deaf bill that goes dangerously beyond our reasonable self-defense laws to make Ohio a ‘shoot first’ state.”
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.
“At a time where our country is plagued by gun violence and shootings of unarmed African Americans, passing Stand Your Ground legislation is complete disregard for the safety of all Ohioans. Removing the duty to retreat provision validates race-based fear as a defense for using deadly force,” said House Minority Whip Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “Once again, the Republican majority is putting the special interests of their financial backers first instead of prioritizing the issues that matter to Ohio’s families.”
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 a “red flag” gun-safety amendment on the House floor, the same measure introduced by Gov. John Kasich in March 2018, but it was defeated largely on party lines.
"Thousands of students, moms, families – and even our own Republican Governor – have asked us to put commonsense gun safety laws in place. But this isn’t commonsense, it’s nonsense that will cost us lives and increase gun violence," said House Assistant Minority Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). "We want safe streets and neighborhoods, but this bill makes us all less safe."
After passing the House, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration.