CLEVELAND (AP) — Lawmakers in Ohio's Republican-dominated Legislature violated the state constitution when they added and approved a last-minute provision that eliminated gun owners' duty to retreat when facing threats, according to two Democratic lawmakers, the Ohio branch of the NAACP and a grassroots organizing group that filed a lawsuit Thursday.
The lawsuit filed in state court in Columbus seeks to repeal the law signed by GOP Gov. Mike DeWine in January.
The amendment was improperly added during the final hours of the Legislature's two-year session in December to what had been a largely bipartisan bill giving nonprofits and other organizations civil immunity when someone with a concealed carry license causes injury or death on their property or at events, the lawsuit said.
The “stand-your-ground” provision is unconstitutional, the lawsuit said, because lawmakers voted on it without three days of hearings and violated a law that says legislation should be limited to similar subjects.
“Our laws protecting the democratic process exist for good reason, and we’ll use all the tools at our disposal to hold accountable those who violate them,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse, a Cleveland Democrat who joined the lawsuit with Sen. Cecil Thomas, of Cincinnati. “Given the well-founded concerns Ohioans have about this policy, it’s no surprise that its backers could only pass it when they shut the public out of the process."
The lawsuit names Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost as the lone defendant. Spokesperson Steven Irwin said the Attorney General's Office is reviewing the lawsuit.
The NAACP said eliminating the duty to retreat makes it “easier to kill human beings without the perpetrators facing any legal consequences," a problem that would especially imperil “human beings” who are Black Ohioans.
“Black Americans experience disparate outcomes, including for example in the criminal justice system, where Stand Your Ground laws exacerbate disparities in outcomes between shootings of Black and white victims, with shootings of Black victims deemed justified much more frequently than shootings of white victims,” the lawsuit said.
The Ohio Organizing Collaborative said the new law would require it to retrain canvassers on how to remain safe while engaging in nonpartisan voter education and grassroots community organizing.