As lawmakers prepare to ride off into re-election campaign season, Republican Ohio House leaders decided that a vote on a controversial stand-your-ground gun bill is not the best sendoff.
After saying last week that he expected a vote — and a veto-proof one at that — on a bill that would eliminate state law’s duty to retreat from a conflict before resorting to a lethal response, Speaker Ryan Smith now says the House is going to wait.
“The House is committed to continuing the conversation about duty to retreat and the necessary changes we feel like we need to make,” the Bidwell Republican said. “We’re going to take some time on that.”
Asked if something changed since last week, when he said he expected a vote on House Bill 228 despite a threatened veto from Gov. John Kasich, Smith did not point to any specific reason.
“I just feel like it’s best at this point, with a lot of moving parts, that we try to determine what we want to get done and make sure everyone is on the same page,” he said.
The Ohio House has a whopping 31 bills up for a vote Wednesday for what is expected to be its final voting session before breaking until the fall, perhaps until after the November election. The stand-your-ground bill could get a vote then.
One of the bills Wednesday is gun related, and there is little controversy around it. Senate Bill 81, which passed the Senate 31-2 in January, would waive the $67 license fee for concealed-carry applicants who are active, reserve or honorably discharged members of the armed forces.
It also allows those who have retired to use their military service as proof of competency, in lieu of the required training, to obtain a concealed-carry license.
In addition to the stand-your-ground provision, House Bill 228 also would reduce punishments for improperly carrying a concealed weapon in many cases to minor misdemeanors, including the improper handling of a gun in a vehicle.
The bill also would further block cities such as Columbus from passing any kind of firearm-related ordinance.
House Bill 228 was facing objections from both sides of the issue. Some gun enthusiasts, including the group Ohio Gun Owners, said the bill was too weak and should be amended to include provisions advocated by Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, that would further restrict prosecution, restrict civil lawsuits after a shooting and allow someone to draw a firearm to de-escalate a situation.
Law enforcement and county prosecutors also opposed the bill, which would shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the defendant to the prosecution, removing the “duty to retreat” when reasonable if faced with a threat. That duty to retreat already does not exist when a person is in their home or a vehicle. Supporters say it would put Ohio law in line with about half of other states.
Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, called the delayed vote a victory for the gun control advocates who flooded Statehouse offices with calls.
“Until Republicans in the legislature get serious about Ohioans’ calls for common sense gun safety reforms, we must all keep the pressure on them to do the right thing,” Leland said.
Meanwhile, Rep. Michael Henne, R-Clayton, offered a revamped House Bill 585, which includes many of the gun-safety provisions proposed by Gov. John Kasich following mass shootings in Las Vegas and a school in Florida.
He relaxed a “red flag” provision that would have enabled family or law enforcement to ask a judge to immediately remove guns from people who show warning signs of violence. The bill also seeks to ban straw man firearm purchases and expand data-sharing among law enforcement databases.
“(Henne) has worked really hard to make some necessary changes and he wants to get those out there and show people he’s heard their concerns and tried to address them the best he can,” Smith said.