Dispatch: Council candidate sues city over ‘reckless’ weapons ban

On Thursday, July 21, the Columbus Dispatch reported that Columbus City Council candidate Phil Harmon has filed the first of what may become several lawsuits against the City of Columbus, challenging Columbus’ assault-weapons ban and asking the court to prevent it from going into effect.

From the story:

    Harmon, a longtime activist and lawyer and one of six candidates running for three seats on the council this fall, filed the suit yesterday in Franklin County Probate Court.

    Harmon said the suit challenges the constitutionality of the entire law. But he filed in probate court, he said, because there’s no provision in the law allowing people to sell or transfer weapons to relatives if they die or need a guardian. Harmon practices estate law.

    "So if someone had a gun all his life, if I became his guardian, I’m subject to prosecution," Harmon said yesterday. "It’s just reckless legislation that needs to be corrected as quickly as possible."

As the Dispatch pointed out in an earlier article, lawsuits over the city’s two earlier gun bans have proved costly. The city paid out $140,000 for attorney fees to Stephen P. Halbrook, a Fairfax, Va., lawyer who had both ordinances declared unconstitutional in the courts. Lawsuits were fought and won by the Columbus-based People's Rights Organization.

Again, from the story:

    The council is too quick to pass laws that make criminals out of law-abiding citizens, Harmon said.

    "From outlawing dogs in the park, to sofas on porches, to smoking in bars, and now gun ownership, where will it stop?" Harmon said in a prepared statement yesterday.

    Mentel is not on the ballot in November, but council members Kevin Boyce, Mary Jo Hudson and Maryellen O’Shaughnessy — all of whom supported the gun ban — are.

    The suit says the ban is unconstitutional because it is vague and too broad.

    Harmon said he and city lawyers are to meet Friday with Probate Judge Lawrence A. Belskis to discuss a temporary restraining order.

    The council adopted the assault-weapons ban on July 11. The ban — which prohibits the sale, possession and transfer of rifles, shotguns and pistols fitting the city’s description of an assault weapon — is to go into effect on Aug. 11.

According to the newspaper, Harmon has challenged City Hall before. He helped lead efforts to repeal the city’s $4-a-day rental car tax, helped to gather signatures on a petition that led the Council to temporarily ban water- and sewer-line extensions into the Big Darby Creek watershed, and represented bar owners in their failed quest to overturn the city’s smoking ban.

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