With Ohio Republican lawmakers set to push “stand-your-ground” legislation, Democrats and black leaders are planning a pre-emptive effort against the idea.
State Rep. Michael Ashford (D., Toledo) led a meeting Saturday attended by several dozen city councilmen, clergy, union leaders, and others at Mount Zion Church, 701 Vance St., to discuss the proposed legislation and organize opposition. Mr. Ashford said a fight against the proposed law is the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus’ top priority.
House Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Terry Johnson (R., McDermott), includes language to loosen restrictions on the carrying of concealed handguns and broaden the circumstances under which lawful Ohio gun owners have no legal duty to retreat when assaulted before using potentially deadly force to defend themselves to any “place that the person lawfully has a right to be.”
Ohio law presumes someone acted in self-defense if he feels he or family members are in imminent danger and shoots an intruder in his home or car.
Though the legislation is in the Ohio House of Representatives, opponents are drafting a petition drive against it, referencing the successful 2011 referendum bid that blocked Senate Bill 5, which restricted public employees’ collective-bargaining rights.
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, publicized by the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, was frequently cited during discussion Saturday. Mr. Ashford said Ohio’s proposed law will cause confusion because of differing interpretations of what is a threat, and will lead to more violence.
“This allows citizens to essentially shoot on sight if they feel threatened,” he said.
The Rev. Talmadge Thomas, Mount Zion’s pastor, said the bill “is not going to do anything for this community.”
That comment became a common theme among speakers, who said weaker gun restrictions would lead to more violence in urban neighborhoods. “I’m so tired of seeing balloons and bunnies and [stuffed] animals tied to trees,” Mr. Thomas said. “When are we going to stand our ground and say, ‘Enough is enough’?”
They keynote speaker was Willie McKether, University of Toledo anthropology professor. Mr. McKether said he believed such a law would be used as an excuse in shootings that actually weren’t justified, and instead of avoiding fights, more people would feel emboldened to use deadly force.
He felt the proposal would be especially dangerous to black males because of ingrained stereotypes that may cause “fear and paranoia,” making someone feel threatened in innocuous situations because of their own biases.
“You can have a good kid and they are where they are supposed to be and they still can get hurt,” Mr. McKether said.
The General Assembly returns to session Wednesday. Mr. Ashford said similar events and petition drives are occurring across the state.