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Ready on stand-your-ground bill

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, in the Mahoning Valley earlier this week, left me with the impression that a stand-your-ground law is probably going to move quicker in the General Assembly than the governor’s gun reform plan.

Obhof, R-Medina, didn’t come right out and say that, but when I asked about both issues, he seemed much more interested in stand-your-ground.

“I’m a co-sponsor of a bill to change our rules on duty to retreat,” he said. “That would put us in line with a large majority of the states now. Not always a reliable source, but if you go to Wikipedia and take a look at this, they have a great color-coded map of the states that either through statute or through practice and case law have eliminated duty to retreat. I think it’s something like 35 or 40. The changes that we’re considering right now in the Senate would put us in line with the vast majority of states.”

The map he referenced – which is accurate, according to other sources – shows 27 states have passed stand-your-ground legislatively and another seven by case law or other means.

It also lists three states, including Ohio, having stand-your-ground limited to only when a person is within his or her vehicle.

There are another 11 that require people to retreat in public, but can use deadly force in their homes or cars.

A Senate committee recently had a hearing on the bill.

With Mike DeWine, also a Republican, as governor, the bill will have no trouble passing as he supports the policy.

But DeWine recently said he wanted the Legislature to focus on his STRONG Ohio gun reform plan before stand-your-ground.

DeWineás proposals include expanding pink slip laws allowing those with drug and alcohol problems to be separated from their guns for 72 hours if considered to pose a threat to themselves or others while being evaluated by a doctor, a voluntary background check for gun sales between private owners and increasing the penalty for those convicted of selling guns to minors and to those not legally allowed to possess them.

Obhof said of the governor’s proposals: “We’ve been airing those out. We had the governor’s proposals introduced, SB 221. It’s had a number of hearings and we’re going to continue airing that out – get people on both sides of the issue the opportunity to come say their peace. I think there is certainly room for improving the background checks system. Auditor (Keith) Faber actually looked at the current system and made some suggestions to myself and legislative leaders about ways to improve that.”

Obhof said there are parts of the governor’s proposal “that could stand for improvement,” adding: “Just making sure that the current rules are followed, the system has all the information it’s supposed to have will be a big improvement.”

I also asked Obhof about recent legislation introduced by numerous Republicans in the GOP-controlled state House that would ban all abortions in the state, except to save the pregnant woman’s life, with doctors who perform them potentially facing murder charges.

“I haven’t had a chance to look at that,” he said. “In general, when things are pending in the House that haven’t been sent to the Senate, we do our own thing and worry about the bills that are in our chamber and they worry about the bills that are in theirs.”

Obhof said he supports recognizing a fetus as a person.

“Sure, I agree with that perspective,” he said. “I think that the current Legislature is one of the most pro-life Legislatures in the country. We passed a number of different pieces of legislation related to that topic. But this specific bill I haven’t reviewed or probably won’t give much considering to unless the House passes it first.”

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the “heartbeat bill” – which prohibits abortion after a heartbeat is detected in a fetus – earlier this year that DeWine signed into law. The bill was blocked by a federal judge. The heartbeat bill, passed by other states and blocked by other judges, is seen as an effort to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.

Skolnick covers politics for the Tribune Chronicle and The Vindicator.

dskolnick@tribtoday.com

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