COLUMBUS — In a session interrupted by protesters, the Ohio House of Representatives voted Wednesday to add Ohio to a list of 22 other states with a variation of a “stand your ground” gun law on their books.
Opponents labeled it the “kill-at-will bill” and the “George Zimmerman bill” after the Florida man whose shooting of a 17-year-old boy ignited a national debate on such laws.
Supporters countered that the bill would affirm “our natural right to self-defense” and would keep Ohio’s stricter self-defense standards compared to some other “stand your ground” states.
■ H.B. 203 would eliminate Ohio's law requiring a person to retreat before using deadly force in self- defense.
■ Under current Ohio law, a so-called “castle doctrine,” residents have no duty to retreat only when they are in their homes, cars, or the vehicles of immediate family members.
■ H.B. 203 would also make a number of major changes to the state’s concealed-weapons laws, including expanded recognition of out-of-state conceal-carry permits, a streamlined background check system, and reduced firearms training requirements. The current 12-hour training requirement would be reduced to four hours.
“A person facing a life-threatening situation should not have to have a duty to flee and hope for the best,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Terry Johnson (R., McDermott). “They should have the right to protect themselves and protect their loved ones.”
He repeatedly drew distinctions between his bill and “stand your ground” laws such as Florida’s, arguing that an Ohioan who uses deadly force in a dangerous situation would still have to prove he acted in self-defense and did not cause or exacerbate the situation.
“I don’t want ‘stand your ground’ brought here,” Mr. Johnson said. “I don’t want someone who looks a certain way to be hassled and rousted. I want just the opposite. … There’s no kill-at-will here. This is not an expansion of Castle Doctrine.”
The unofficial tally as of late evening was 63-27, with several members who were not on the floor at the time the vote was called still expected to check in to have their votes recorded. Three members, all ex-military personnel, excused themselves from the vote because of a provision making it easier for veterans to qualify for concealed-carry licenses; among them was state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D., Toledo).
In the unofficial count, six Democrats broke from their colleagues to support the measure. None was from northwest Ohio. No Republican had opposed it.
Debate now shifts to the Senate.
The bill would remove the legal duty to first try to retreat from a potentially dangerous situation in any place that a legal gun-carrier has the right to be before employing deadly force to protect himself. Ohio has a Castle Doctrine law, which presumes that someone who uses deadly force when facing an intruder in his home or car acted in self-defense unless evidence shows otherwise.
Among other provisions, the pending bill would require Ohio to recognize concealed-carry permits issued by other states that also recognize Ohio’s licenses, regardless of whether the other state has comparable training and background check requirements.
It would add domestic-violence convictions to a list of violations that disqualify someone from getting an Ohio concealed-carry permit, add a national database background check for permits, shorten the mandatory training to get a license from 12 hours to four, and allow Ohioans to buy a rifle or shotgun from any state, rather than just here or in a neighboring state as under current law.
The bill is opposed by the Fraternal Order of Police and the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.
“You pass this, somebody’s going to die because of this — absolutely,” said state Rep. Fred Strahorn (D., Dayton).
At one point, a small group of people was ushered out of the chamber by security after they erupted into shouts, chants, and song in protest of the vote.
State Rep. Mike Ashford (D., Toledo) holds a concealed-carry license, but he opposed the bill.
“There’s nothing wrong with current law,” he said. “Castle Doctrine tells it all. But if we pass this, trust me, we’re going to see an increase in homicides in this state.”
Ohio’s attorney general now negotiates concealed-carry reciprocity agreements with other states that have “substantially comparable” standards as Ohio. The bill would automatically grant reciprocity to residents of any state that recognizes Ohio’s permits.
Mr. Johnson noted gun-owners are most eager for reciprocity agreements with neighboring Indiana and Pennsylvania as well as Georgia, the only state between here and Florida without reciprocity with Ohio. None of those states has any training requirements tied to getting a concealed-carry license.
Contact Jim Provance at: email@example.com or 614-221-0496.