An attack on the rule of law


Independent candidate for mayor Mike Collins, a former police officer, told me recently that so-called “stand your ground” laws are “invitations to violence” that undermine the police.

Incumbent Mayor Mike Bell agrees.

So both men will want to speak out, in no uncertain terms, against a bill that goes beyond Florida’s, or any other state’s, stand your ground law — state House Bill 203. Some have called it the “kill at will” bill.

The bill would loosen certain current state restrictions on carrying a concealed handgun and on the sale of guns to convicted felons, which is irrational and reckless. Even worse, it would expand the state’s current law — based on the Castle Doctrine — that adequately, indeed broadly, interprets self-defense with a gun in your own home. This bill would extend self-defense to any place or circumstance in which a threat is perceived by the shooter. There would be no legal duty to retreat to home or car. This takes recklessness to new heights.

Last Saturday, I attended a meeting at Mount Zion Church on Vance Street organized by Rep. Michael Ashford. It was a most unusual meeting — one of several happening in major cities in Ohio. It was a meeting to pre-empt a bill that has not yet passed in the Ohio legislature: House Bill 203.

Ever heard of a pre-emptive strike in legislative and referendum politics? Neither had I.

But it’s a savvy move, and one justified by the cause: stopping one of the worst pieces of legislation in recent memory.

Opponents say if House Bill 203 passes, they want to be ready. They will immediately petition for a state referendum to repeal the law, following the example of Senate Bill 5. Opponents are already gathering signatures on a preliminary petition that will help them build a mailing list for an actual repeal drive, should it be necessary. (They will have 90 days.)

That’s if this thing passes. One would like to think moderate Republicans and the governor’s veto would prevent this ideological excretion from ever seeing the light of day. It is unworthy even of this legislature. But, incredibly, the far right may have the votes.

Incredible, because this is not legislation at all. It’s anti-legislation. It makes the work of law enforcement officers much, much harder. Can you imagine the shooting galleries in the inner cities? The incidents of road rage ending in bloodshed? The domestic disputes, gone nuclear? All would be justified under this proposed law.

But we seem to live in the age of the anti-legislator, on the state and national level — people who don’t build, they only tear down.

House Bill 203 is nothing to do with the Second Amendment or self-defense. It is vigilantism. It is nihilism — an attack on the rule of law and the civil order itself. Our potential mayors have condemned it. As of Tuesday night, Toledo City Council has denounced it. The next mayor should urge the governor to veto this bill should it come to him. The governor is an honest conservative and a reasonable man. I hope he will.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: or 419-724-6266.