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Ohio House Speaker Silences Debate On 'Stand Your Ground' Gun Bill

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Ohio Public Radio
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The Ohio House Wednesday approved an NRA-backed 'stand your ground' gun bill. 

The vote was taken after the white House Speaker gaveled out of order a black Democrat who tried to speak in opposition. Ohio Public Radio's Jo Ingles reports. 

Supporters of the bill, mainly Republicans such as sponsor Sarah Latourette, said this bill gets rid of the law that requires Ohioans who feel their lives are threatened from having a duty to retreat before being able to use a gun to defend themselves.

 Currently Ohio is the only state where a person is guilty until proven innocent in cases of self-defense.”

 

Opponents such as Democrat David Leland called it “stand your ground” legislation that he said will dramatically cut penalties for violating existing state law.

 

Crimes such as illegally carrying a concealed handgun, or illegally carrying a concealed handgun at a college or university, or illegally transporting a loaded firearm in a vehicle would all be punishable by that slap on the wrist.”

 

Democratic Representative Stephanie Howse said this bill impacts African Americans, like herself, differently. She said she and other minorities are sometimes perceived as threatening to some people. 

 

What do you do in places and spaces when your presence literally, your face, your face, causes someone to be fearful of you?”

 

Howse said the legislation would allow that person who is fearful because of someone else’s skin color to shoot in self-defense. She then ticked off the names of lawmakers sponsoring the legislation and the percentage of African Americans living in their districts. And that’s when Republican House Speaker Ryan Smith gaveled her down.

 

TAP TAP TAP

 

Howse “We are talking about constituencies and the impact of this legislation on constituencies.

 

Smith “And I’m asking you to keep the personalities away from it.

 

The interchange went on as Howse was gaveled out of order.

 

(more sound of gavel here)

 

And her microphone was shut off. Smith proceeded straight to the vote on the bill as protests from Howse could be heard in the background.

 

Smith “The question is shall the bill pass as amended. The House will prepare and proceed to vote.”

 

The bill passed as Howse continued to protest.

 

(protests in background)

 

Smith “The lady will take her seat and refrain from being disruptive.”

 

Howse “You want to have a conversation about race, Speaker Smith?”

 

Howse left the chamber and a few moments later spoke to reporters. She said she was offended that she was not allowed to make her point – that legislators who backed this bill represent predominately white constituencies.

 

How is that offensive? When we write laws, our title is the Ohio House of Representatives. We might have a district number but we make laws for all of Ohio and I just want my colleagues on the other side to hear that, to understand that.”

 

Smith said he was offended and that’s why he gaveled her down. 

 

I didn’t gavel her down hard. I was just trying to get her attention.  Frankly, she insinuated myself and Johnson and Latourette are racists and I find that infuriating.”

 

Howse says she doesn’t think you can talk about a bill like this without taking race into consideration.

 

Having a conversation of race is like, ‘We’re not going to talk about it.’ It’s like kryptonite here in this body and I just don’t understand, ‘what’s the harm in looking at your blind spots because clearly there are?’ Sometimes you can miss some things if you only represent one, two, ten percent of a group.”

 

Howse said she hopes the discussion about how this bill would affect people of color will continue as the bill now goes to the Senate, where it's likely to pass. But Gov. John Kasich has said he will veto it.

 

 

The Statehouse News Bureau was founded in 1980 to provide educational, comprehensive coverage of legislation, elections, issues and other activities surrounding the Statehouse to Ohio's public radio and television stations. To this day, the Bureau remains the only broadcast outlet dedicated to in-depth coverage of state government news and topics of statewide interest. The Bureau is funded througheTech Ohio, and is managed by ideastream. The reporters at the Bureau follow the concerns of the citizens and voters of Ohio, as well as the actions of the Governor, the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Supreme Court, and other elected officials. We strive to cover statehouse news, government issues, Ohio politics, and concerns of business, culture and the arts with balance and fairness, and work to present diverse voices and points of view from the Statehouse and throughout Ohio. The three award-winning journalists at the bureau have more than 60 combined years of radio and television experience. They can be heard on National Public Radio and are regular contributors to Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Marketplace. Every weekday, the Statehouse News Bureau produces in-depth news reports forOhio's public radio stations. Those stories are also available on this website, either on the front page or in our archives. Weekly, the Statehouse News Bureau produces a television show from our studios in the Statehouse. The State of Ohio is an unique blend of news, interviews, talk and analysis, and is broadcast on Ohio's public television stations. The Statehouse News Bureau also produces special programming throughout the year, including the Governor's annual State of the State address to the Ohio General Assembly and a five-part year-end review.
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