(FinalCall.com) – The 99-member Ohio House of Representatives in November 2013 passed a bill aimed at strengthening the Second Amendment rights of its 11 million residents, but Black legislators and activists say a provision that is akin to the controversial Stand Your Ground laws in 23 other states has to go. They are fighting to kill the measure before it moves out of the state Senate.
“This bill is not necessary in Ohio. There are no known cases of people in jail or on trial for using lethal force to defend themselves,” wrote Stand Up 4 Justice coordinator Julie Eichorn in an e-mail message to The Final Call.
Blacks constitute 12.5 percent of the state’s population, compared to Whites, 83.4 percent, Latinos, 3.3 percent and Asians, 1.8 percent.
Supporters of House Bill 203, sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Coley say it is needed to cut red tape for those seeking a concealed weapons permit as it also toughens rules for carrying a concealed handgun, and expands recognition of Ohio’s conceal-carry permits to other states.
Democratic Legislators such as Cincinnati Representative Alicia Reeves warned the so-called self-defense provision would lead to greater gun violence against minorities. The bill passed in the House by a margin of 62-27.
“The bottom line is, why you would want this legislation?” asked Ms. Reeves during an interview with The Final Call. The veteran lawmaker said the bill is sitting dormant in the Senate. “But, we have an eye on it, at the same time we are demanding that Governor John Kasich veto it if it passes,” Ms. Reeves said. “This is not a philosophical debate; this is about what has happened in the past–taking us back to the 1960s–with a 21st century spin on racial profiling.”
“Rep. Reeves has always displayed concern for the issues affecting Black people, a very conscientious political leader,” said Student Minister Darnell Muhammad of Mosque No. 43 in Columbus, Ohio, the state capital.
Mr. Muhammad told The Final Call that Columbus is a White Republican-dominated conservative city “very middle-class,” compared to cities such as Cincinnati or Cleveland.
Student Minister Darryl Muhammad of Mosque No. 5 in Cincinnati told The Final Call that there would be “galvanizing” of the protests against the law in the city. “I understand why there is so much concern about this law, which takes us back to the days of lynching of Black people,” Darryl Muhammad said.
Ms. Eichorn explained that Stand Up 4 Justice is continuing a petition drive and asking voters to contact their elected representatives. “This is a shoot first explain later law,” said Ms. Eichorn. “According to an Urban Institute study these laws have devastating effects on communities of color.”
“For murders with a White shooter and a Black victim, 16.9 percent were ruled justified in ‘Stand Your Ground’ states. Only 9.5 percent were in states that have no ‘Stand Your Ground’ law on the books,” according to the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center study. “The odds that a White-on-Black homicide is ruled to have been justified is more than 11 times the odds a Black-on-White shooting is justified,” the study concluded.
States that have enacted self-defense laws are mainly clustered in the South and Midwest, but Northeast swing states New Hampshire and Pennsylvania also have similar statues, the study reported. At least nine states explicitly use Stand Your Ground language, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
The changes to Ohio law would eliminate requiring a person to retreat before using deadly force in self-defense. Under current Ohio law residents have no duty to retreat when they are in their homes, cars or vehicles of immediate family members, reflecting the Castle Doctrine, widely used across the U.S.
If HB 203 passes, Ohio would automatically recognize concealed handgun licenses issued by any state that recognizes Ohio concealed-weapon licenses.
Ms. Reeves heads the state’s Legislative Black Caucus and is the president of the Cincinnati National Action Network chapter. She has dubbed the provision “kill at will.” “We only have 17 Blacks in the 132-member State General Assembly so we are going to have to put boots on the ground,” she said.