Gun Rights Groups Challenge Ohio Firearms Regulations

Gun rights activists have filed lawsuits against the city of Columbus regarding Ohio gun regulations. City leaders approved a broad package of regulations that made carrying a firearm after suffering a disability a misdemeanor and prohibited the brandishing of imitation firearms in public. The city also has approved the banning of so-called “rate-of-fire firearms enhancers,” commonly referred to as bump stocks.

In March, the city of Columbus announced several new pieces of legislation to tighten Ohio gun regulations, despite the state’s ban on local restrictions. City leaders called for 11 new ordinances that they said would close the gap between state and federal weapons laws and help reduce gun violence.

Mayor Andrew Ginther, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Columbus City Council president Shannon Hardin, announced the measure and said it would increase protections for victims of domestic violence and assault, prohibit firearm sales in residential areas, expand the weapons reporting process, and prohibit the sale of imitation firearms to minors.

This new legislation included a Weapons Under Disability Ordinance, which mirrors federal law that prohibits the possession of a firearm by persons who were previously convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, currently is the subject of a protection order, or previously was convicted of, or is under indictment for, a felony crime that is considered a disability under federal law but not Ohio law.

This includes convictions for drug offense, either as an adult or a child; chronic alcoholic, drug dependent or in danger of drug dependence. In addition, those deemed mentally incompetent, mentally defective or mentally ill by a judge, and subject to hospitalization or otherwise committed to a mental institution would be considered disabled under this legislation.

Having weapons while under disability is a third degree felony punishable by up to 36 months in prison.

However, since 2006 the Ohio General Assembly has prohibited cities and localities from enforcing gun control measures stricter than the state’s laws, which is part of why the Buckeye Firearms Foundation and Ohioans for Concealed Carry filed the lawsuits, on June 14,  and were named as plaintiffs in the cases. The two groups cited that these ordinances, including those related to bump stocks, are unconstitutional and violate Ohio law.

A similar lawsuit has been filed against the city of Cincinnati.

Ohio Revised Code 9.68 preempts the home rule powers of municipalities to regulate firearms, their components, and ammo,” said Dean Rieck, executive director of Buckeye Firearms Association, in a statement.  “This is important because Ohio used to have a confusing patchwork of gun laws. Merely crossing a city border could turn an otherwise law-abiding citizen into a criminal. More than a decade ago, legislators wisely decided to correct this problem by creating a uniform system of state law and forbidding cities from passing any laws which conflict with those laws.”

In May, Cincinnati became the first city in the Buckeye State to ban bump stocks, and later that same month Columbus approved a broad package of regulations to ban the bump stocks, along with the aforementioned Weapons Under Disability Ordinance.

Bump stocks were of course cast in the spotlight nationwide following the October 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, where a gunman was found to have used one in a massacre that left nearly 60 people dead and many more injured.

However, the gun advocates in Ohio challenge that this isn’t just about simulating the fire of an automatic weapon, which opponents of the bump stocks contend.

“This isn’t just about bump stock devices,” said Doug Deeken, a director with Ohioans for Concealed Carry, via a statement. “This is about rule of law in Ohio.”

The Ohio gun rights groups have requested that the new ordinances be suspended until their lawsuits are settled. However, attorneys for Columbus and Cincinnati rejected demand letters to file for an injunction to prevent the cities from enforcing the ordinances.

Precedence could weigh in on the case, as the Buckeye Firearms Foundation and Ohioans for Concealed Carry have won lawsuits against cities who have attempted to regulate firearms.

In 2010, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 opinion that Ohio’s “preemption” law was valid; and in a case brought by the City of Cleveland against the State of Ohio, the court held that R.C. 9.68 is valid in all respects, including, but not limited to, the mandatory attorney fee provision against any city that attempts to violate a citizen’s right to self-defense.

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-Peter Suciu, U.S. & Texas LawShield Contributor

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