A little more than a month from now, a full year will have passed since the mass murder by gun of nine people in Dayton – 26 people shot in 32 seconds on a warm summer night – sparked what looked for a moment like real momentum toward reasonable gun control in Ohio.
But the push and pull of opposing gun-policy factions in the Statehouse have produced something closer to a stalemate. Gov. Mike DeWine’s package of eminently reasonable restrictions, even though watered down significantly to appease gun-rights advocates, remains unpassed. On the other hand, the worst of the gun-rights extremists’ proposals haven’t passed, either.
Given the relentless expansion of gun rights by lawmakers in most of the past decade or so, that’s relatively cheering. Still, Ohio deserves better.
The House of Representatives on June 11 passed a bill that would eliminate the duty of someone with a concealed weapon to “promptly” inform a police officer, for example, in a traffic stop, about the weapon. Instead, the gun holder would have to tell an officer about the gun only if and when the officer asks for identification.
The bill also drastically lowers the penalty for failing to mention the gun. Instead of being a first-degree misdemeanor with a fine up of to $1,000, it would result in a civil citation and a maximum fine of $25.
The Senate should deep-six this bill, which solves no problem and increases the likelihood of a dangerous misunderstanding between a police officer and a member of the public.
We’re thankful, at least, that House Bill 425 was not amended to include “stand your ground” language, as some hardliners advocated. That is the deeply flawed idea of removing the legal duty of a person in a conflict to retreat, if retreat is possible, before using lethal force.
The entire nation is agonizing over the deadly persistence of racism-fueled encounters in which people of color are confronted and questioned while simply going about their business. Stand-your-ground laws in other states have been blamed for helping escalate such conflicts into killings.
Recall the recent case of Ahmaud Arbery, the Black man jogging through a white neighborhood who was followed, blocked and confronted by two armed men who said they believed he was a burglar. The men shot and killed him when he fought back against their attempt at a “citizens’ arrest.” No charges were brought against the shooters until a video of the incident incited public outrage, and part of the original prosecutor’s reason given for inaction was that Georgia’s stand-your-ground law allowed the men to shoot Arbery because they believed him to be dangerous.
Studies have found that not only do stand-your-ground laws lead to a significant increase in gun homicides, but also when those cases go to trial, a white person who killed a Black person is far more likely to be exonerated by a stand-your-ground defense than if the races are reversed.
This is the last thing Ohio needs to be safer.
We urge reasonable lawmakers instead to quickly approve Senate Bill 221, DeWine’s compromise package. It would provide a fair process for taking guns away from people found by a court to be dangerous to themselves or others and create an incentive for voluntary background checks in private gun sales.
It falls well short of what most Ohioans want in reasonable gun restrictions, but it would be the first step in the right direction in many years.
— Columbus Dispatch; Online: https://bit.ly/3gfaBmk