Stand Your Ground bills hurtling towards passage this week in Ohio Legislature

Ohio legislators are speeding towards a vote this week on Stand your Ground legislation (companion bills SB 383 and HB 796). Stand Your Ground laws are especially perilous to people of color (think of Ahmaud Arbery), and could encourage angry people to take the law into their hands during a peaceful anti-racism rally, as Kyle Rittenhouse did in Kenosha, killing two people and wounding a third.

SB 317, allowing school districts to arm teachers and staff without any gun safety training, has passed the Ohio Senate and is now under discussion in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.

The Chiefs of Police of six major cities (including Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton in our dicoese) have written to the leaders of both chambers to urgently protest these bills, “neither of which will reduce crime or promote law and order.” (See letter)

The Stand Your Ground bills, the police chiefs write, “would threaten public safety by encouraging armed vigilantism and allow a person to kill another person in a public area even when he or she can clearly and safely walk away from danger. In other states that have implemented similar laws to SB 383, gun violence and homicides have significantly increased.”

They warn of the peril to people of color, citing an increased rate of acquittal for white shooters after Stand Your Ground rights expanded in Florida, particularly when the victim is Black.

On SB 317, the Chiefs warn legislators that “significantly reducing firearm training for school personnel will make our schools less safe and increase the likelihood that a student will be unintentionally harmed or killed by a firearm in a school.”

ACTION NEEDED

Gun rights advocates are deluging the Legislature with calls in favor of Stand Your Ground. Call the Speaker of the Ohio House, Representative Bob Cupp, (614) 466-9624, and the Senate President, Senator Larry Obhof, (614) 466-7505, as well as your Representative and Senator, attaching the Police Chiefs’ letter.

Here’s the House directory: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/house-directory  and the Senate Directory: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/senate-directory

Each page has a link at the top to find out who represents you. Then you can click on your representative’s picture to get to his or her home page, from which you can easily send an email or find the rep’s direct phone line.

Tracking criminal justice reform

Becoming Beloved Community folks are going to start tracking criminal justice reform bills in the Ohio Legislature, in the quest to foster racial justice in our criminal code. Here is our first call to action: You can follow criminal justice reform through the Cincinnati-based non-profit Ohio Justice and Policy Center, at https://www.ohiojpc.org/our-work/policy/

Help end juvenile life sentences without parole

SB 256 to end juvenile life sentences without parole could pass this week with your help!  SB 256 abolishes juvenile life without parole sentences with limited exceptions. It also mandates parole eligibility for kids who were sentenced before the age of 18. Ohio would become the 23rd state in the country to ban juvenile life without parole sentences if the bill is adopted.

Please contact the House Criminal Justice Committee and urge them to pass SB 256. http://ohiohouse.gov/committee/criminal-justice Just click on each member’s picture to get to his or her page to contact them by phone or email. A Christian perspective: no child is irredeemable and we want a policy that values redemption and hope.

 

Legislative briefings are compiled by Ariel Miller, a member of Ascension & Holy Trinity, Wyoming,  and a member of the diocesan Becoming Beloved Community Leadership Team.