Ohio Supreme Court sides with gun owners, upholds Ohio's preemption law

The Ohio Supreme Court has, in a 5-2 opinion, once again ruled that Ohio's "preemption" law is valid. 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.

HB347, the preemption law, became effective in March of 2007. It replaces a patchwork of varied and confusing local rules with "uniform laws throughout the state regulating the ownership, possession, purchase, other acquisition, transport, storage, carrying, sale, or other transfer of firearms, their components, and their ammunition."

The legislature recognized that, like motor vehicle laws, it makes sense for firearms laws to be uniform throughout the state. Because local laws can only carry misdemeanor penalties, and almost every crime committed with a gun is a felony under state or federal law, the local laws were almost never used to charge criminals and instead served to disarm the crime victims.

Cleveland's argument against the state law was simple: they felt the state and federal government had not gone far enough to regulate your self-defense rights, so the city should still be free to further handcuff everyone who happens to be inside city limits. Writing for the majority, Justice Stratton rejected this argument, stating "A comprehensive enactment need not regulate every aspect of disputed conduct, nor must it regulate that conduct in a particularly invasive fashion."

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray hailed this morning's ruling from the Ohio Supreme Court, which affirmed the constitutionality of Ohio's firearms statutes.

"This is an important victory for every gun owner in Ohio," Cordray said. "Before 2006, Ohioans faced a confusing patchwork of local ordinances with different restrictions on gun ownership and possession. The General Assembly stepped in, enacting a comprehensive set of rights and responsibilities for every citizen seeking to exercise his or her Second Amendment liberties. We vigorously defended that law, and today the Court upheld it."

Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action, said, "Today's ruling is a victory for law-abiding Ohioans. This ruling makes clear that preemption is the law in the Buckeye State and a patchwork of gun laws is not acceptable. If Cleveland, or any other city, wants to crack down on violence, city leaders there should focus on prosecuting criminals, not enacting new gun laws that only serve to restrict law-abiding citizens."

It is particularly noteworthy, and refreshing, that Justice Lanzinger, who voted against preemption in the Clyde case, acknowledged the legal concept of stare decisis that admonishes judges to respect prior decisions, and voted to respect the prior decision where she was in the dissent. The same cannot be said of Justice Pfeifer, who once again was in a dissent that had no basis in law or fact. The other dissenting vote came from Chief Justice Eric Brown, an appointee of Gov. Ted Strickland who failed in November to win election to a full term.

This ruling also means that Buckeye Firearms Foundation's suit against Cleveland will be reactivated, and we expect immediate action on the injunction requests previously filed with the trial court. The suit seeks a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to stop the City of Cleveland from prosecuting law-abiding gun owners under local ordinances that restrict gun ownership and concealed carry.

The lawsuit also asks the Court to declare 20 different local ordinances unconstitutional on the grounds of state preemption of firearm laws.

In Cleveland, gun ordinances have been used for political or philosophical reasons and had the effect of harassing law-abiding citizens.

Download the ruling here.

Media Coverage:

Columbus Dispatch - Ohio Supreme Court shoots down local gun control

Local firearms regulations suffered a crippling, possibly fatal blow yesterday when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled for the second time that a more-permissive state law trumps local restrictions.

...Firearms groups cheered the statewide law, saying gun owners shouldn't be penalized by a patchwork of laws from city to city. The same groups hailed yesterday's Supreme Court ruling.

"My right to self-defense, just like my right to attend church or write an op-ed in the local newspaper or be protected from illegal search and seizure, is the same in Delaware County as it is in Columbus or Cleveland," said Ken Hanson, legislative chair of the Buckeye Firearms Association.

Toledo Blade - Ohio Supreme Court denies cities gun-law authority

The Ohio Supreme Court has upheld a 2006 law that allows the state, rather than cities, to determine firearm restrictions.

...Firearms groups hailed Wednesday's ruling.

"My right to self-defense, just like my right to attend church or write an op-ed in the local newspaper or be protected from illegal search and seizure, is the same in Delaware County as it is in Columbus or Cleveland," Ken Hanson, legislative chair of the Buckeye Firearms Association, told the Columbus Dispatch.

A key issue in discussing home rule is whether local ordinances conflict with general laws, he wrote, noting he doesn't believe Cleveland's ordinances conflict with the law "because they do not permit something that the statute forbids or vice versa."

In addition to other state media coverage, this important ruling has also been covered in national media, including Reuters, UPI, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times.

Of particular note in the NYT coverage are the dire predictions by Robert J. Triozzi, Cleveland’s law director, who led the city's lawsuit, who said that "gun owners would now be able to walk through a public square with rifles, handguns and assault weapons, and that safety rules for possession of guns near children would also be removed, endangering residents."

Not to be left out, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson told The Cleveland Plain Dealer he believes the ruling will put urban populations like Cleveland's at greater risk for gun violence.

"Even though we've made progress in Cleveland, gun violence is a very real threat that we face, particularly our young people," Jackson said in a statement. "Our inability to enforce laws that are right for our city flies in the face of home rule and takes power away the people at the local level."

Mayor Jackson has been crying about an Ohio law rendering Cleveland's so-called assault weapons ban unenforceable since before it passed in late 2006 (HB347). He complains that he can no longer prosecute people for all those crimes, and that the loss of that tool has directly resulted in Cleveland's increasing violent crime problem. He even stages press conferences behind a table of scary looking guns, implying that they had been confiscated through the now-defunct ban. For that to be true, there must be a significant drop in convictions related to those offenses. We have the proof - there is not.

In fact, as of the date of our investigation, not only has the city of Cleveland has not convicted a single person under their so-called assault weapons ban in the mayor's entire tenure; they have never even taken one case to trial!

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