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Ohio lawmakers strip 'stand your ground' from gun bill

The bill needs approval from the House before it heads to Gov. John Kasich's desk.
Credit: Stockbyte

COLUMBUS - Ohio lawmakers stripped controversial "stand your ground" language from a gun rights bill they plan to send to Gov. John Kasich.

Kasich, a Republican who has signed nearly every Second Amendment bill that has crossed his desk, had promised to veto a stand your ground law, which would have removed the legal requirement to retreat before shooting in a public place.

On Thursday morning, Ohio senators took that language out of House Bill 228, making it something Kasich might sign.

"No one's getting everything they want," said Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township. "I guarantee the gun folks didn't get everything they wanted."

What remained was a proposal changing who must prove a shooter acted in self-defense. Under current law, that's the person who fired the shot. Under the proposed changes, the prosecutor would need to prove the person did not act in self-defense to pursue charges.

Ohio is the only state that places that burden on the shooter.

The bill passed largely along party lines, but three Republicans voted against it. Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said Ohio lawmakers were doing little to address gun-related deaths in the state.

"So far, the response of this body has been to do nothing about that," Lehner said. "Even the most simple, common-sense measures have been rejected by this body."

The bill made a few other changes: it would penalize people who purchase a gun for someone banned from having one – often called a straw-man purchase. The practice is banned federally, but this proposal would make it a third-degree felony under state law.

And the bill prohibits cities from passing their own rules about guns and other items, such as Cincinnati's ban on bump stocks. The bill would give municipalities nine months to repeal such rules. Democrats tried to stop those restrictions, but they were overruled.

Senators also added a change to allow off-duty law enforcement officers to carry firearms.

The most controversial item in the bill was left out. Opponents of "stand your ground" expressed concern that similar laws in other states did not necessarily reduce crime.

The Urban Institute also found that racial disparities exist in the application of "stand your ground" laws. For example, a white shooter who kills a black victim is 350 percent more likely to be found justified than if that same shooter killed a white victim.

Democrats tried to add language to the bill that would allow relatives and police to ask a court to remove temporarily any guns from a person considered a threat. The so-called "red flag" law was rejected along party lines.

The bill passed committee, 7-3, Thursday morning and passed the full Senate 19-10. The bill needs approval from the House before it heads to Kasich's desk.

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