Akron has joined a growing list of Ohio cities taking aim at a “Stand Your Ground” bill pending in the state legislature.
City Council passed a resolution Monday opposing House Bill 203, which makes changes to the state’s concealed weapon law and expands the circumstances under which a person has no duty to retreat before using lethal force in self-defense.
“It’s a piece of dangerous legislation,” said Councilwoman Linda Omobien, a co-sponsor of the resolution.
Omobien pointed to what happened in Florida with the Trayvon Martin case and said, “We really don’t need that in the state of Ohio.”
Omobien is among a contingent of about 50 people from the Akron and Cleveland areas who will travel to Columbus on Wednesday to protest the proposed legislation. They will join others from across the state who will deliver petitions with about 10,000 signatures from people against the bill to Gov. John Kasich and the House and Senate leaders. U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge’s campaign is organizing the Northeast Ohio bus trip.
Cleveland City Council was expected to pass a resolution Monday night against the bill, a step several other Ohio cities, including Canton, Dayton, Cincinnati and Youngstown, have already taken.
“H.B. 203 will not help us as local legislatures move our cities to the next level,” Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell said in a news release. “It will only move us backward as urban cities. We do not need to promote any legislation that will promote gun violence any further than what we are dealing with right now.”
Conwell said the bill “could only bring more harm.”
The legislation, currently pending in a House committee, makes numerous changes to who may obtain a concealed carry license, such as allowing certain low-level drug offenders to get permits but prohibiting misdemeanor domestic violence offenders from obtaining them, and to the process for obtaining a license, including requiring a search of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System before a permit is issued.
The part of the bill that is most controversial, though, says a person doesn’t need to retreat if the “person is in a place that the person lawfully has a right to be.” This goes beyond current Ohio law that says “a person need not retreat if the person lawfully is in the person’s residence, the person’s vehicle or the vehicle of an immediate family member,” according to an analysis of the bill.
The Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Ohio Prophetic Voices and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus organized the petition effort against the legislation, which included about 1,000 signatures collected in the Akron area, said Paul Graham, a spokesman for the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, a network of faith and labor groups.
“It’s so exciting to see how cities are really taking up the call around this,” Graham said.
The bill’s opponents will deliver the petitions and have a news conference at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. They will then hold a protest while the legislature is in session at 1:30 p.m. that Graham is calling a “die-in” to urge the legislature to not pass the legislation and Kasich to veto the bill if it is passed. He said African-Americans whose lives have been touched by gun violence, including those who have lost loved ones or whose family members have been incarcerated, will talk about their experiences.
“This will memorialize the loss of life in Ohio,” Graham said.