State Watch

Kasich vetoes bill to expand gun-owner rights, blocks gender identity discrimination

Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) Wednesday vetoed a bill intended to expand gun-owner rights, including by bolstering their legal defenses.

He also issued an executive order including "gender identity or expression" in Ohio's anti-discrimination policy for state employees. 

The moves come as Kasich is considered as a potential primary challenger to President Trump in 2020, having a reputation as a moderate following his willingness to buck his party's leader.

Kasich vetoed Ohio House Bill 228, which would have shifted the burden of proof to prosecutors to show that defendants used force in self-defense.

"This has never been the law in Ohio; the defendant has always had the burden of proving self-defense. This provision of the bill is strongly opposed by the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association," Kasich wrote in his veto message

While, Kasich did applaud certain merits in the bill, including strengthening penalties against illegal "strawman" gun purchases and allowing off-duty police officers to carry concealed weapons.

But the governor said he vetoed the bill based on provisions that would "benefit from additional considerations," citing the burden of proof stipulation and also the limitations the bill sets on cities and counties wanting to pass local gun restrictions. 

He also called on the state legislature to enact a "red flag law" which would enable guns to be taken away from individuals who show warning signs of violence.

"Even the National Rifle Association is on record as supporting the concept of red flag laws," his veto message said. "That the General Assembly has been unwilling to even debate the idea is baffling and unconscionable to me. This idea's omission from this legislation is a shortcoming that I cannot accept."

State lawmakers plan to re-convene next week and could try to override the veto.

Kasich is also expected to veto a controversial "heartbeat bill" that would ban abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

While Kasich has been hinting at the veto for weeks, the anti-discrimination executive order came as a surprise.

"Gender identity or expression" was added to a 2011 list of anti-discrimination statutes that already included race, color, religion, gender, national origin, military status, disability, age or sexual orientation.

"It's just the right thing to do," Kasich said on Twitter.