COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - A controversial "Stand Your Ground" law that would make it easier for licensed gun owners to use lethal force in self-defense is moving forward in the Ohio House.
If passed into law, House Bill 228 also would
- shift the burden of proof in self-defense cases from the defendant to the prosecutor
- scrap requirements that K-12 schools, police stations, courthouses, airports and other public sector locations post signs declaring themselves gun-free zones
- reduce certain concealed handgun violations to minor misdemeanors
House Bill 228 was introduced more than a year ago and is sponsored by State Rep. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and State Rep. Sarah Latourette (R-Chesterland).
The bill cleared the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee in a 7-3 vote down party lines Tuesday, but it's not clear when the bill will go to the floor for a vote.
The House hasn't held a session in more than a month due to an impasse over their next speaker and is about to take its summer recess.
A vote scheduled to select a new speaker was canceled early Tuesday, but one is now scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, said State Rep. Bill Seitz, (R-Green Township).
The former House speaker, Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), resigned last month amid FBI questions over his lavish lifestyle.
A new speaker is needed before more laws can be made.
"My concern is that we pick a speaker and get back to work," Seitz said. "There are too many bills that cannot be held until we have a speaker in the chair. It's time to resolve this and move on."
If a new speaker is selected Wednesday, House is scheduled to be in session Thursday, Seitz said, but no additional sessions are planned, at least at this point, until fall, though a new speaker could add more dates.
Seitz said he doubts House Bill 228 would go to the floor this week because there are dozens of bills in front of it.
What's more, Gov. John Kasich announced back in February he would not sign a "Stand Your Ground" bill in the wake of the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting that killed 17 students and staff members and wounded several others.
House Bill 228 is the first pro-gun legislation to be heard in the Statehouse since the nation's latest mass school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, that killed eight students and two teachers and left another 10 wounded.
Democrats, meanwhile, have proposed a ban on assault-style weapons, a mandate universal background checks, and a prohibit bump stocks that make semiautomatic weapons function more like automatic weapons
Several groups, including the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and ACLU of Ohio, have said they oppose House Bill 228, while others including the Buckeye Firearms Association and Ohio Gun Owners have endorsed it.
Seitz and another local state lawmaker said they plan to vote for House Bill 228. It puts Ohio in line with "Stand Your Ground" laws already on the books the majority of the nation, Seitz notes.
"I am sure the anti-gun people will act like their hair is on fire and the world is coming to an end, but the fact of the matter is this is the way it works in 49 other states," he said.
For George Lang (R-West Chester Township), it comes down to the right of self-defense.
"The duty to retreat may work for some people, but I am 56 years old with several knee surgeries," he said Wednesday. "In most circumstances where my life was threatened, I would have had a difficult time retreating, as would many other people. I believe self-defense is a God-given right protected by the 2nd Amendment."