Oct. 19, The Columbus Dispatch
Ohio pipeline protest bill threatens to shut down free speech
The Ohio House of Representatives should stand up for civil rights and stand up to corporate interests that want to make protesting a crime in Ohio. They can do both by voting down Senate Bill 33.
Approved 24-8 by the Senate in May, the bill creates new categories of criminal and civil offenses for “willfully damaging critical infrastructure facilities.” The language refers to refineries, water treatment plants, electric generating plants, telecommunications structures and more, but the genesis for the bill was protests of energy pipelines such as those that held up construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016.
Since then, bills like SB 33 have popped up around the country, backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-backed group that writes model legislation attuned to corporations’ interests and enlists state lawmakers around the country to introduce them.
Fossil fuel industry giants are among ALEC’s biggest backers, and ALEC model bills include measures to weaken environmental protections and undermine the development of carbon-free energy alternatives.
Backers claim the pipeline protest bill is about safety — to prevent dangerous accidents that could result from anyone damaging or tampering with infrastructure. But no supporter could define for Dispatch reporter Martin Schladen what “tampering” means in the context of the bill.
Does it include classic acts of civil disobedience, such as standing in the way of a bulldozer?
The Dispatch doesn’t condone damage to public or private property, and Ohio already has laws against trespassing and criminal damaging. By piling on heavier penalties and by virtue of the interests backing it, SB 33 seems designed to intimidate people whose protests might inconvenience pipeline companies and cost them money.
It seeks to silence opposition by creating fines of up to $100,000 on organizations that support protesters. Ohio lawmakers should be more responsive to Ohioans and less compliant with big donors.
Oct. 22, The Toledo Blade
‘Red-flag’ law turned out positive in Indiana
As Ohio’s state government backs away from considering a “red-flag” law to stop the epidemic of gun violence, it’s worth noting that Indiana has maintained such a law on its books since 2005, before the current pressure in this state and around the country to do something to keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.
A study has found that the law has a modest impact on reducing the number of suicide by firearms. Researchers at the University of Indianapolis reported in June, 2018, their estimate that 383 firearm suicides were prevented in the 10 years following enactment of the law.
The Dayton Daily News recently reported on this study as an example of how so-called extreme risk protection orders have operated in a neighboring Midwestern state. While cautioning that the data from Indiana’s 92 counties makes a comprehensive analysis hard to achieve, researchers found that Indiana’s red-flag law led to a 7.5 percent decline in firearm suicides.
The Jake Laird Law, enacted in 2005, was named after a police officer shot dead by a heavily armed man who months earlier showed warning signs that he could be dangerous. The Indiana law allows police to seize weapons with or without a warrant if someone is deemed dangerous. Court hearings are held within 14 days of a seizure.
Gov. Mike DeWine had promised a red-flag law that would have required a court to hold a hearing three days before seizing guns from a person setting off alarms that he or she could be dangerous to themselves or others. The governor’s proposal would have allowed family members, loved ones, law enforcement, and others to request such an order.
But when his proposals were put in legislation, the governor did not follow through, saying a three-day warning to a dangerous person might merely have heightened the danger, a legitimate concern.
Indiana’s study focused on suicides, rather than on homicides, including mass shootings. In Ohio, suicides account for more than 60 percent of gun deaths. Between 2007 and 2018, Ohio recorded 15,406 firearms deaths: 9,446 suicides, 5,642 homicides, 177 accidental deaths, and 141 undetermined reasons, according to the Ohio Department of Health data.
Indiana’s law has prevented nearly 400 suicides over its 14 years of existence. That alone weighs heavily in favor of Ohio following a similar path. It stands to reason that other injuries and deaths by firearms also would be averted with a well-crafted law that protects the rights of law-abiding gun owners while protecting the lives of potential gun victims.