He signed into law a controversial “stand your ground” measure that the Republican-dominated legislature approved last month after declining to give the governor’s proposals serious consideration.
”I am very disappointed, however, that the legislature did not include in this bill the essential provisions that I proposed to make it harder for dangerous criminals to illegally possess and use guns,” said DeWine, citing one element of his plan, in a news release about why he signed the measure.
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Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley also was disappointed — in DeWine, whose proposal she vocally supported even though she didn’t think it went far enough.
“Gov. DeWine came to our city and stood on stage for a vigil for our murdered friends and neighbors and then told us he stood with our community in our fight against gun violence. Now it seems he does not. Gov. DeWine has made clear he opposes this dangerous policy, but he once again folded to the extreme elements of his own party,” she said in a statement on Twitter.
The NRA supported the decision.
“Crimes can happen quickly and without warning. Most victims have a split second to react with the best course of action for their survival. By signing SB 175, Gov. DeWine ensures the law favors victims and not criminals,” said John Weber, state director for the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action, in a statement.
While DeWine never overtly threatened to veto gun bills, he made clear his priorities.
In a year-end interview, DeWine told The Dispatch in December 2019, “I’ve kind of made a resolution that I am not going to get into other issues that are related to guns, and I don’t think the legislature should, until we pass this (his plan).”
“We’re focused every single day on passing STRONG Ohio, and that’s what I am going to do. That’s the commitment I made to the people of Dayton and the people of Ohio,” DeWine said of the 4 shooting four months earlier that claimed nine lives in Dayton. “I believe that next year we’ll see the legislature pass our STRONG Ohio bill and there will be a ceremony where I am signing the bill into law.”
He echoed those remarks in a 2020 year-end interview.
“I’ve made it very clear, I think, many times going back months that I felt that before the legislature took up other gun bills that they really should focus on what we have sent them, where we know there are things that will absolutely save lives, protect children, protect families,” DeWine said shortly before Christmas.
But Monday he said, “I have always believed that it is vital that law-abiding citizens have the right to legally protect themselves when confronted with a life-threatening situation. While campaigning for governor, I expressed my support for removing the ambiguity in Ohio’s self-defense law, and Senate Bill 175 accomplishes this goal. That is why I have signed this bill today.”
The governor had until midnight to sign SB 175, veto it, or let the law changes take effect without adding his signature. With his signature, the law changes will take effect in 90 days.
As originally introduced, SB 175 granted civil immunity to churches, synagogues, mosques and other nonprofit when defensive shootings occur on their premises.
The initial bill passed the Ohio Senate a year ago on a unanimous vote. But the Ohio House added language expanding the locations where residents have no duty to attempt to retreat before using a firearm in self defense.
“If a person is in danger of grievous bodily harm or worried about his or her life to the point where they need to use a firearm to defend themselves, very clearly this removes the duty to retreat, just as if you were in your home or in your car,” Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, said during the floor debate on the legislation.
The final bill passed on split votes, with many Republicans supporting and Democrats and a handful of Republicans in opposition. During the final floor debate, Sen. Hearcel Craig, D-Columbus, said the bill would “inevitably lead to more deadly confrontations and sometimes-violent deaths.”
Legislative action:Ohio Senate sends ‘Stand your ground’ gun law to Gov. Mike DeWine
The governor rolled out a comprehensive package of gun reforms in the days following a mass shooting in Dayton, when a gunman killed nine people and injured more than two dozen others.
The legislature declined to vote on any of those changes, even after repeated calls to address gun violence from DeWine during regular coronavirus briefings.
DeWine urged incoming lawmakers, who were taking their oaths of office Monday, to act on other gun law changes, including expanded information and alerts in background checks for firearm purchases and increased penalties for the illegal possession, purchase and sale of guns.
“Everyone who cares about these issues knows that the provisions I am requesting in no way infringe upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to own firearms,” DeWine said in his statement after signing SB 175. “They know what I am asking for is to make it harder for guns to get into the hands of criminals. These provisions will save lives. These provisions need to become law.
“In the spirit of cooperation with the General Assembly, I have signed Senate Bill 175. I look forward to working with members of the legislature in the future to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and to protect the rights of citizens who follow the law.”
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Democrats had urged DeWine to veto the controversial measure. They and gun control advocates sharply criticized the governor.
Contributing: Anna Staver
Follow Marc Kovac on Twitter: @OhioCapitalBlog