COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Outgoing Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich acted as expected Wednesday to veto a bill expanding gun-owner rights and, in a surprise move, also expanded a years-old anti-discrimination order to include gender identity.
Both moves were consistent with the prospective 2020 presidential candidate’s recent shift away from his party’s right wing toward policies that he characterizes as representing bipartisan common ground.
Among those are “red flag” laws allowing gun rights to be temporarily stripped from people 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.”
Kasich defended his record as pro-Second Amendment, noting that he’s signed or allowed to become law nine bills protecting gun rights.
The bill he rejected did strengthen penalties against illegal “strawman” gun purchases, among recommendations of Kasich’s bipartisan gun policy committee, and it allowed off-duty police officers to carry concealed handguns. But it also reversed the burden of proof in criminal self-defense cases from the defendant to the prosecutor.
Kasich cited the latter among other reasons for his veto, along with limits the bill sets on cities and counties wanting to pass local gun restrictions.
Laura Lewis, of the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, praised the veto.
“The governor saw this for what it is — an extreme attempt to punish Ohio cities and towns for trying to address gun violence,” Lewis said in an email. “Most Ohioans want our lawmakers to work together and pass bipartisan gun safety legislation, like a red flag law, and legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers. We want Ohio to move forward, not backward.”
Lawmakers plan to re-convene next week and may try to override the veto.
Kasich, who leaves office Jan. 13 due to term limits, had been signaling the possible veto for weeks. What was unexpected Wednesday was his separate release of an updated executive order.
The order, first issued in 2011, was changed to prevent state personnel decisions from being discriminatory based on “gender identity and expression.” The order had already barred discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.
Kasich spokesman Jon Keeling said the governor opposes any form of discrimination in state employment and he felt the order needed to be updated to become more current.
“Upon a recent review of the policy, the governor felt it should better include groups vulnerable to potential discrimination,” Keeling said.