2018 Year In Review: Kasich, Legislature Feud Over Gun Policies

Dec 31, 2018

This was the year Ohio saw a dramatic tone shift when it comes to gun policies, with Gov. John Kasich positioning himself against the Legislature. 

For seven years the Republican-controlled General Assembly and Kasich worked in tandem to enact many pro-gun bills.

Kasich ran for re-election in 2014 with the NRA’s endorsement.

He signed several pieces of legislation to extend rights for concealed carry permit holders.

And measures like the “Stand Your Ground” bill, which makes it easier to use lethal force in self-defense, seemed to have momentum.

But in February, all that changed after a mass high school shooting in Parkland, Florida where 17 people were killed by a former student. That seemed to mark another turning point for Kasich when it came to guns and he changed course. The pro-Second Amendment page on his website was wiped out just hours after appearing on national news shows.

And the “Stand Your Ground” bill, which had a hearing just one day before the Parkland shooting, went dark for two months.

Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) saw it as a time to shift focus on other things like education, jobs and healthcare.

“All of the issues that we need to be dealing with as a Legislature I don’t think we need eight different pieces of legislation dealing with expanding gun rights in the state of Ohio,” Leland said.

Then, less than a month after the Parkland shooting, Kasich released a list of what he called “common sense” gun regulations. That list included closing gaps on the National Instant Criminal Background Check system, cracking down on “straw man” purchases, banning armor-piercing ammo, outlawing bump stocks, and -- perhaps the most controversial piece -- the “red flag law” which allows the court to take a gun away from someone who poses a threat to themselves or others.

“This is something they have to work on. I don’t intend to browbeat them or…I’m going to encourage them every step of the way,” Kasich said.

The national rhetoric for more gun control was still building. Even then-House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger seemed open to talking about possible regulations, but added that it’s difficult to legislate personal behavior.

“And somebody wanting to do something bad is always going to find an avenue to be able to do that what we need to do is of course make sure we’re doing whatever it is possible to make it tough for those that want to do something bad into the future,” said Rosenberger.

Watch: Pro-gun group holds open carry rally at the Ohio Statehouse

But after another month, that eagerness to find common ground waned. The “Stand Your Ground” bill was back in committee, while Kasich’s proposals, in the form of HB585, didn't move in the House.

There are more than 100 references to firearms in the list of bill titles introduced by the General Assembly this session.

There was HB233, which allowed someone to carry a concealed weapon into a gun-free zone as long as -- if they were caught -- they left without incident. 

A bill, HB201, to allow someone to carry a concealed weapon without getting a permit and training.

House Bill 151 to require criminal background checks before selling a gun, closing the so-called “gun show loophole.”

And SB260 would've banned so-called “assault weapons.”

None of those bills passed.

A few others did though.

A measure, HB79, to allow tactical medical professionals, such as EMTs that work with SWAT teams, to carry firearms while on duty. Kasich signed that bill.

Another bill, SB81, allowed veterans to get their concealed carry permit without going through civilian training. Kasich allowed that bill to go into law without his signature

But the focus consistently centered on the “Stand Your Ground” bill, HB288. In December, the Senate finally passed the measure but took the “Stand Your Ground” language out. That means the “duty to retreat” remained in law.

Chris Dorr with Ohio Gun Owners said the new language did not go far enough to appease his members.

“In states where the burden of proof is already on the prosecution to disprove a self-defense claim, gun owners already sit in jail so this idea that we’ve switched that over is a huge get for gun owners, it’s not,” said Dorr.

But Kasich vetoed the bill, citing his objections to other changes in self-defense laws and the General Assembly’s unwillingness to move his “red flag law.”

“Why would I sign a bill that gives more power to the gun advocates,” Kasich said while addressing the Columbus Metropolitan Club in December.

Lawmakers reconvened for a rare, post-Christmas Day session in order to override that veto, enacting the bill into law without Kasich’s approval.

Next year, the Statehouse could see yet another change in the tide when Governor-elect Mike DeWine takes office. He supports “Stand Your Ground” he also sees merit in the “red flag laws” if there’s due process.