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Senators scale back Ohio gun rights bill

Facing a veto threat from Gov. John Kasich, state senators on Thursday backed off a plan to pass a so-called Stand Your Ground gun rights bill and voted 19-10 in favor of a vastly scaled back bill.

Under current law, Ohioans have a duty to retreat before using deadly force when facing a serious threat in public. That won’t change under the legislation — unlike typical Stand Your Ground laws, which remove that language.

Kasich has said he opposes Stand Your Ground legislation and instead favors what he considers to be reasonable gun restrictions.

Related: Kasich proposes major changes to Ohio gun laws

Jim Irvine of the Buckeye Firearms Association said the amended bill is a compromise that accomplishes multiple goals.

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“The Buckeye Firearms Association and NRA, we will be back next session to work on the duty to retreat stuff. We think that is important,” Irvine said.

Related: Ohio House passes ‘stand your ground’ bill

Sen. Bill Coley, R-West Chester, and the chairman of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, said, “it’s a better bill” but that “no one is getting everything they want.”

“I think the Rolling Stones would be happy,” he quipped, referrring to the rock group’s hit song.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, opposed the bill, saying it fails to address the issue of gun violence. “So far the response of this body has been to do nothing about that. Even the most simple, common sense measures have been rejected by this body.”

Lehner and state Sens. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard, and John Eklund, R-Chardon, joined Democrats in voting against the bill. State Sens. Steve Wilson, R-Mainville, and Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, voted in favor.

The amended bill will align Ohio law with 49 other states when it comes to the burden of proof in self-defense cases. Currently, Ohio law requires the defendant claiming self-defense to prove it. House Bill 228 would shift that burden of proof to the prosecution to show the defendant did not act in self-defense.

The bill also adopts the federal definition of a sawed-off firearm, bars straw-man purchases of guns and allows off-duty police officers to carry concealed weapons.

Related: Sheriff won’t charge man in deadly parking lot shooting

Senators also stripped out of the bill a provision that would have prohibited subsidized housing agencies from blocking tenants from having firearms. The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio testified that that provision would have prohibited reasonable firearms restrictions in facilities that serve tenants with severe and persistent mental illness and or cognitive disabilities.

Richele O’Connor of Moms Demand Action, which favors gun restrictions, said “Are we happy? We’re half-happy.”

She noted that the group will continue to advocate for a “red flag” bill that would allow law enforcement and family members to petition for a court order to remove weapons from a loved one who seems to be at risk of harming themselves or others.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, a former police officer, tried unsuccessfully to roll provisions of the red flag bill into HB228. His fellow senators voted 19-10 to table that amendment.

The changes to the bill still need House approval before the legislation is sent to the governor for consideration.

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