A squad of gun control activists and Democratic lawmakers have launched a legal fight over the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which was signed by Gov. Mike DeWine way back in January of this year. Everytown for Gun Safety, along with the Ohio branch of the NAACP, a local grassroots organizing group, and two Democrat state legislators, claim that the law was illegally put on the books in the waning hours of the legislative session after it was attached to another piece of legislation.
“The Ohio Constitution has very strong provisions to make sure our legislators can’t throw in bills close to midnight that haven’t been properly debated,” attorney Rachel Bloomekatz said. “That’s what was violated here.”
Was it really though? According to the plaintiffs, the amendment to SB 175 violated the state constitution’s rule requiring legislation be limited to a single subject, as well as a rule that requires lawmakers to consider a bill on three different days. Rep. Kyle Koehler, who introduced the Stand Your Ground amendment, says he believes the bill that was ultimately signed by Gov. Mike DeWine was limited to a single subject: use of a handgun.
But the lawsuit pointed to testimony from the bill’s original sponsor that seemed to contradict that argument.
“I want to be very clear that Senate Bill 175 does not expand concealed-carry rights or locations. This is not a ‘gun bill,'” Sen. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, said when he testified about his bill in May 2019.
The problem for Everytown and their anti-gun allies is that while Schaffer was correct when he said that the original Senate bill didn’t expand “concealed-carry rights,” that statement is also true of the amended legislation that included Stand Your Ground. As for Schaffer’s original claim that SB 175, as introduced, wasn’t a gun bill, I think that could be debated. The original bill dealt specifically with concealed carry and civil immunity for nonprofit corporations if a shooting took place on their property, so it was certainly a gun-related bill, even if it didn’t specifically expand the right to keep and bear arms.
Similarly, the Stand Your Ground amendment is gun related, but not specifically limited to firearms. Stand Your Ground applies to all acts of self-defense, not just those in which a firearm is used, but like bill it was attached to, it doesn’t expand “concealed carry rights or locations”. To my unlawyered eye, it appears that both the original text of SB 175 and the amended version signed by Gov. DeWine are indeed dealing with the single subject of the use of force, but the Everytown attorneys have a vested interest in arguing otherwise.
Koehler says that if the Ohio Supreme Court ultimately sides with the gun control lobby, he expects the legislature to simply pass Stand Your Ground once again. In the meantime, however, Everytown and the other plaintiffs are asking a judge for a declaratory judgement that would reimpose the duty to retreat that was negated by the signing of SB 175. I won’t predict what the judge will do, but given the fact that Stand Your Ground has been in effect since April without any issues, I don’t see any reason to put it on ice while the lawsuit makes its way to the state’s highest court.