Everytown For Gun Safety challenges Ohio to defend its law in court


On Thursday, a national gun control group teamed up with two Democratic lawmakers and filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Ohio’s new ‘stand up’ law – but not in the way you might. think so.

The lawsuit, which was filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, does not question whether people should have to retreat before firing a gun in self-defense.

Instead, Everytown For Gun Safety is asking the judge to decide whether Republican lawmakers broke the rules when they added opposing another bill and passed it without garnering public testimony.

“The Ohio Constitution contains very strict provisions to ensure that our lawmakers cannot introduce bills around midnight that have not been properly debated,” said lawyer Rachel Bloomekatz. “This is what has been violated here.”

How the bill became law

At around 10:30 p.m. on December 17, Republican Representative Kyle Koehler stood on the floor of Ohio House and asked to add “one simple thing” to a bill protecting churches and other nonprofits from civil lawsuits. that could be brought after a shooting. on their properties.

Senate Bill 175 received near unanimous support and was due to pass through state house in the closing days of Ohio’s two-year legislative session.

Koehler’s amendment changed all that.

Democrats in the House and Senate were outraged. Senator Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, even removed his name as a co-sponsor. But the bill passed by party line vote and Gov. Mike DeWine signed it into law in January. The law entered into force in April.

Was it legal?

Thomas, Rep. Stephanie Howse, D-Cleveland and the Ohio NACCP all say no.

They allege in the complaint that Koehler’s amendment violated two provisions of the state’s constitution:

  • The single subject rule (article 2, section 15D) says “no bill may contain more than one subject”.
  • The Three Considerations Rule (Article 2, Section 15C) requires lawmakers to consider a bill on three different days.

Koehler, who said he was not a lawyer, disagreed.

“I’m not trying to tell anyone he’s right or wrong, but I think it was one topic,” he said.

SB 175 dealt with what happens after the “use of force” in churches and other nonprofit organizations, and its amendment dealt with how Ohioans could use lethal force outside their homes and their homes. cars.

“The bill dealt with the use of handguns, and we amended it with something regarding the use of handguns,” Koehler said.

But the lawsuit pointed to testimony from the original sponsor of the bill that appeared to contradict that argument.

“I want to be very clear that Senate Bill 175 does not expand concealed carry rights or locations. It is not a ‘gun bill’,” the senator said. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, when he testified about his bill in May 2019..

The lawsuit also argues that Republican lawmakers had two separate bills removing the legal requirement to step down that they could have passed during the two-year legislative session.

“Given the well-founded concerns of Ohioans about this policy, it’s no surprise that its supporters can only adopt it when they exclude the public from the process,” Howse said. “This trial aims to make it clear that this is unacceptable.”

What happens next

The lawsuit calls for what is called a declaratory judgment, which Bloomekatz says “allows a judge to decide whether a law is valid or invalid.”

This could reinstate Ohio’s obligation to withdraw immediately.

Ohio (which is represented by Attorney General Dave Yost) could appeal and the decision could ultimately end up in the Ohio Supreme Court.

The state Supreme Court struck down some laws for violating the one-subject rule. An example cited in the trial was a 1995 case called Simmons-Harris v. Goff where lawmakers put a school voucher program in the state budget.

According to this ruling, “This principle is particularly relevant where the subject is inherently controversial and of significant constitutional importance.”

Lawmakers, in this case, came back with a separate school voucher bill and passed the law again. Koehler said he would expect this to happen if the court overturns SB 175.

Anna Staver is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.

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