Late Thursday, House Democrats delivered impassioned floor speeches against a last-minute, unvetted amendment to House Bill 175, Shoot First legislation that would permit the use of deadly force by individuals who believe their lives are endangered in any space, something Democrats say goes too far, and would threaten Black lives and make all Ohioans less safe. Then, in a move to silence more Democratic opposition, Republicans employed a rarely used parliamentary procedure to prematurely end debate, and voted to ram the bill through along party lines.
Here is what House Democrats had to say about the extreme Shoot First legislation:
"When we ask you to consider what we're saying, it's because we're afraid, terrified. If you don't have just a little bit of empathy to say, "Let me hear out what they're talking about,' as my grandmother would say, ‘Bless your heart,'" said Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). Watch her entire floor speech.
"I'm going to keep on telling people's stories because they aren't here to tell their stories. This amendment…completely disregards racial biases and will disproportionally affect people of color. In our community, there are countless deaths that were justified because of stand your ground law—while performing every day activities, such as walking down a street, parking a car, or refusing to turn down music. Trayvon Martin, Emmitt Till and countless others' lives are unjustly taken," said Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland). Watch her entire floor speech.
"This is not funny. It is not cute. Most of y'all don't even represent enough Black people to even have an informed decision. And then when people give you facts, it's like, ‘We don't care. As long as the NRA is happy, I'm good.' It ain't right. Listen to people that are Black. These cries ain't for nothing. People aren't protesting for nothing," said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). Watch her entire floor speech.
"People should be able to defend themselves, absolutely, but it should not be a fact that people of color die disproportionately because of these laws," said Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus). "We need to have some real, meaningful conversations about these types of laws and how they impact people of color…so we can figure out how to move forward." Watch her entire floor speech.
"[Shoot First] laws increase violence, deaths and disproportionately impact communities of color. This makes our communities more dangerous," said Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park). Watch her entire floor speech.
"All of the evidence points to the fact that this type of legislation incentivizes violence… This is not the legislation that the people of Ohio called for when they shouted for us to 'do something' after last year's shooting in Dayton," said Rep. Jeffrey A Crossman (D-Parma). Watch his entire floor speech.
"I'm a gun guy, but this goes too far. We're putting this out on the street and creating this risk, and we're going to shift the burden of proof onto the prosecutor. We have a self-defense legal system that's worked. This bill creates unnecessary risk," said Rep. Gil Blair (D-Weathersfield). Watch his entire floor speech.