Ohio’s lame-duck session appears primed for a battle over gun legislation with several bills vying for attention on both sides of the gun-rights issue.
One bill that has the backing of lame-duck Gov. John Kasich is the so-called Red Flag Bill, or SB 278, which would allow law enforcement or a family member to ask a court to confiscate someone’s firearms if they seem to pose a threat.
“It would be a terrible mistake not to do it in this lame duck session because when you get into the next session, everyone’s going to be worried about who’s going to yell at them,” Kasich told WOSU.
But House Speaker Ryan Smith says the chamber won’t take up the House version of the Red Flag Bill, HB 585, which includes Kasich’s “red flag law” as well as a ban on bump stocks.
Critics of the law say they open up Pandora’s Box in a way that offers vast potential to violate the due-process rights of gun owners.
Ohio Gun Owners Director Chris Dorr, for instance, told The Dispatch the bills include “no due process. No notification. No day in court. Nothing. That’s what these bills will do, and that’s why these bills must be stopped.”
Florida, Maryland and several other states have passed similar laws since the mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida, and at least one death has already been attributed to the enforcement of the law in Ferndale, Maryland.
Police in Ferndale killed Gary Willis, 61, on Nov. 5 after he was subject to a Red Flag court order for reasons that were “unclear,” according to CBS News.
Michele Willis, the man’s niece, told The Baltimore Sun that one of her aunts requested the protective order against Willis, but she declined to say why. She said police stopped by the home to speak with her uncle. Willis said her uncle “likes to speak his mind,” but “wouldn’t hurt anybody.”
“I’m just dumbfounded right now,” she said. “They didn’t need to do what they did.”
The bill Kasich does not want passed is HB 228, also called the “Stand Your Ground” law, which would give greater leeway for gun owners to use lethal force in situations where they are defending themselves against perceived lethal threats.
Kasich has vowed to veto the Stand Your Ground bill if it is passed in the lame duck session, so Republican could likely stall efforts on that bill. HB 228 would also forbid local governments from passing gun-control laws.
Senate Bill 283, sponsored by Senators Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), would implement universal background checks to require all firearm purchases be processed by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) at the point of transfer. This would potentially include “loaner” firearms between friends and family members, similar to a law passed in Washington state.
Senate Bill 219, sponsored by State Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), may or may not get taken up during the lame-duck session. This bill would ban a host of modifications, including bump stocks, that accelerate the rate of fire on a semi-automatic weapon.
Ohioans for Concealed Carry issued an alert last month saying it “stands firmly against” SB 219 because it will do much more than ban bump stocks. The group said it would be fighting this and several other “reactionary pieces of anti-gun legislation” being proposed in Columbus.
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Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.