Ohio Gun Safety Activists Accuse Governor of 'Kowtowing to the Extremists' Over New Law

Gun safety activists in Ohio have harshly criticized Governor Mike DeWine's decision to sign a bill that expands the state's "Stand Your Ground" right in the wake of the 2019 Dayton mass shooting.

The new law eliminates a person's responsibility to retreat before using lethal force in self-defense and expands the principle of "Stand Your Ground" to include "if that person is in a place in which the person lawfully has a right to be." It had previously been restricted to the person's house and car.

The Ohio chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action issued a joint statement on Monday accusing DeWine of giving in to "extremists." Both groups are part of the Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund.

"When it comes to gun safety, Governor DeWine is all talk and no action," said Lisa Voigt, a volunteer with Ohio Moms Demand Action.

"By kowtowing to the extremists in the legislature he has failed his constituents and let the world know that he stands with the gun lobby over public safety. By signing this reckless, racist legislation he is putting Ohioans at risk."

Mitchell Pinsky, a student at Ohio State University who's a member of the Students Demand Action National Advisory Board, said DeWine, a Republican, "threw his power behind this racist and dangerous policy that we know will only increase gun violence. Ohioans deserve leaders who will act on calls to prevent gun violence and tackle systemic racism—not enact shameful laws that take us backward."

The groups' statement says "Stand Your Ground" laws "disproportionately impact communities of color" by "helping white shooters avoid criminal prosecution and putting Black people at further risk of gun violence."

DeWine brought forward his own gun legislation in response to the mass shooting in Dayton in 2019 but the state's lawmakers have not agreed to his proposals, which include more stringent background checks and harsher penalties for convicted felons who commit new crimes with firearms.

The governor had previously suggested he could veto the bill expanding "Stand Your Ground" protections. On Monday DeWine said: "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.

"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."

"While Gov. DeWine's signing statement suggested the governor supports efforts to reduce gun violence, the signing evokes flashbacks of his failure to fight for meaningful gun safety legislation even after the Dayton mass shooting," the gun safety groups' statement went on.

"Despite his stated support for gun violence prevention in the wake of the tragedy, Gov. DeWine abandoned efforts to require background checks on all Ohio gun sales just two months later and refused to back life-saving red flag legislation."

Governor Mike DeWine's office has been contacted for comment.

Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio
Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio gives his victory speech after winning the Ohio gubernatorial race at the Ohio Republican Party's election night party at the Sheraton Capitol Square on November 6, 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. DeWine has faced criticism for standing a "Stand Your Ground" bill. Justin Merriman/Getty Images