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Lawsuit Filed To Strike Down Ohio's "Stand Your Ground" Law

Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau
A rack of pistols at a Columbus area gun store

The suit says the law removing the duty to retreat and allowing lethal force to be used if a person feels threatened is unconstitutional.

Opponents of Ohio’s so-called Stand Your Ground law that went into effect in April have filed suit to overturn it.

The lawsuit claims the provision allowing lethal force whenever a person feels threatened in a place they're legally allowed to be was unconstitutionally added into another bill in violation of the single subject rule. The suit also claims that provision wasn’t properly vetted and that minority lawmakers were undermined in passing it.

Tom Roberts heads the Ohio State Conference of the NAACP, and he said lawmakers are insensitive to the danger he says Black Ohioans are put into.

“But we know because we are African-Americans. We are Black. We live in the community. And we know firsthand what this kind of law means to our people and our constituents," Roberts said.

Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) – both Black Democratic lawmakers – joined the suit, along with the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.

The "stand your ground" provision was added to a bill shielding non-profits from liability in some cases of workplace shootings in a lame duck session of the legislature in December 2020.

Gov. Mike DeWine had signed it in January after hinting that he wouldn't, saying he wanted lawmakers to focus on his gun regulations plan introduced after the Dayton mass shootings in 2019. No Democrats voted for the bill in either chamber.

Before the provision was folded into the bill that eventually passed and was signed, "Stand Your Ground" had been proposed as a stand alone bill in 2019.

That was after Republican former Gov. John Kasich vetoed a stripped-down version of a similar proposal the year before. The legislature overrode that veto, but some lawmakers said they weren't happy with that measure.

The "stand your ground" bill that passed in the House in 2018 did so after intense debate on the floor. Howse was gaveled out of order during that session after reading off the sponsoring lawmakers and the percentage of African Americans living in their districts.

The gun regulations group Everytown For Gun Safety is representing the group in its lawsuit.

“This is one of the first civil lawsuits that seeks to strike down a ‘stand your ground’ law on constitutional grounds. If this case is successful, it will be the first case that strikes down a ‘stand your ground’ law anywhere in the country," said Len Kamdang, the director of litigation strategies and trials with Everytown Law.

Around 30 states have so-called Stand Your Ground laws, and while there have been some lawsuits over them, none has been overturned.

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