Lawmakers set to expand gun rights in Ohio, DeWine’s reform plan unlikely to pass

Vigil held in Dayton after Oregon District shooting
Vigil held in Dayton after Oregon District shooting

Gov. Mike DeWine’s package of gun reforms appears unlikely to pass the Statehouse this session, but lawmakers are poised to permit armed Ohioans to stand their ground in public settings and use deadly force in self-defense.

Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said he plans to move House Bill 796 “as soon as possible,” which could be as soon as next week.

Currently, Ohioans have a “duty to retreat” from dangerous situations, if possible, before using force in self-defense. HB796, sponsored by state Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, would eliminate that duty.

State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, is sponsoring a bill to eliminate the "duty to retreat" from danger in public spaces before using deadly force in self-defense.
State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, is sponsoring a bill to eliminate the "duty to retreat" from danger in public spaces before using deadly force in self-defense.

More than a decade ago, Ohio adopted the Castle Doctrine, which says there is no duty to retreat before using force if a person is in their home or vehicle. Koehler’s bill, and a similar one in the Ohio Senate, would extend that doctrine to any place a person is lawfully allowed to be.

The bills have support from gun rights groups such as the Buckeye Firearms Association but are opposed by gun control groups such as Moms Demand Action.

Koehler said in testimony on HB796: “My right to defend myself from serious bodily harm or death does not change just because I am outside the walls of my home. My right to defend myself from serious bodily harm or death does not change if I am inside or outside my car. My right to defend myself from serious bodily harm or death should be extended to anywhere I am lawfully allowed to be.”

In October 2019, just months after the deadly mass shooting in the Oregon District and facing chants of “Do Something” during a vigil, DeWine proposed the Strong Ohio plan. That called for improving data added to background check systems, increasing penalties for repeat offenders who use guns, and expanding the use of 72-hour hospital holds for people with chronic alcoholism or substance use disorders.

That bill, Senate Bill 221, has languished in the Senate, where legislative leaders say elements supported by lawmakers might be cherry picked and passed.

ExploreDeWine on gun reforms: We have done something but it's not enough

Cupp, however, said he doesn’t see any support in the House for SB221.

“At the present time I don’t determine any sentiment to proceed with those,” Cupp said. “I think the House is focused on providing individuals with the ability to better protect themselves from violent crimes.”

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last month that Bellbrook Sugarcreek Local Schools does not have to publicly release the Oregon District shooter’s school records. News media outlets, including the Dayton Daily News, sought the records to examine how the district handled disciplinary issues when the shooter was a student.

Cupp said there has been no movement to change student record privacy laws.

Just before Thanksgiving, the Ohio Senate approved Senate Bill 317, which would exempt school staff authorized to carry weapons on campus from certain training requirements.

ExploreSchool staff carrying guns won't face major training requirements, bill says

In 2016, state law changed to allow school districts to permit staff to carry weapons. But a ruling in March from the 12th District Court of Appeals determined that those staff members would have to complete 700 hours of basic peace officer training before carrying firearms at school.

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