Ohio House delays vote on one gun bill, revamps another

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.

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.

Under current law, a person must show by a preponderance of the evidence — that it is more likely than not — that he or she acted in self-defense. Ohio is the only state that places the burden of proof on the defendant, but county prosecutors argue the standard is not an undue burden, nor does it create a presumption of guilt.

Opponents say the bill would give those involved in a conflict less incentive to try to de-escalate or escape without using lethal force. But supporters, including the Buckeye Firearms Association, say it properly places the burden of proof on the prosecution, and that the law should not require any retreat from a potentially violent encounter.

On Tuesday afternoon, a House committee will hear a bill that includes many of the gun-safety provisions proposed by Kasich following mass shootings in Las Vegas and a school in Florida.

Rep. Michael Henne, R-Clayton, is expected to offer changes to the legislation, House Bill 585, which is facing opposition from gun rights groups.

As introduced, it includes a “red flag” law that would enable family or law enforcement to ask judges to temporarily strip gun rights from people who show warning signs of violence. It also seeks to ban straw man firearm purchases and expand data-sharing among law enforcement databases.

The revisions coming toay will give members time to mull them over during the summer.

″(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.

jsiegel@dispatch.com

@phrontpage

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