Cleveland court decides to control guns, not criminals

By Ken Hanson

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Cleveland Municipal Court has launched a program that they think will help clear up some 25,000 outstanding warrants and get guns out of criminal hands. The scheme calls for known, wanted criminals to walk into a police station, turn in a gun, and walk out without posting bail for their outstanding warrants.

Far be it from us to rain on anyone’s parade, but we thought it would be helpful to point out a few problems with this idea.

First, 25,000 outstanding warrants? Has the entire Cleveland Court and Police Department called in sick or are they waiting in line for their American Idol tryout? Even if each car on each shift of the police department worked just one warrant per day, and were successful just 25% of the time, they would clear more warrants in a month than this “guns for bail” program could ever possibly hope to clear.

Second, any person with an outstanding warrant is under disability due to R.C. 2923.13(A)(1), which makes it a third degree felony for a fugitive from justice to posses a firearm. Plus, Cleveland has several local ordinances banning guns and requiring other government approval to own firearms in Cleveland. So the gist of the program is that the Cleveland Municipal Court has made a policy decision to relieve the administrative burden of someone with a warrant for disorderly conduct, for example, than prosecute a scofflaw felon for illegally having a gun.

Third, the Cleveland Municipal Court is really just publicizing an existing loophole in Ohio’s law in an effort to get these people off their docket: Under Ohio law, specifically R.C. 2923.23(A), a person who is under disability to posses a firearm may avoid prosecution for possessing the firearm by “voluntarily” turning it in. So even if someone has a murder warrant out for 10 years, they can voluntarily surrender a firearm and avoid a third degree felony for possessing the firearm.

Fourth, if a concealed carry license holder walked into the same police station with a handgun, the license holder would be guilty of committing a felony. So the court apparently trusts known criminals more than trained license holders. Which leads to a logical absurdity: If they trust criminals more than license holders, why ask for the guns in the first place?

In summary, if someone commits a crime in Cleveland, and then has a warrant issued because they fail to appear in court, then they commit another crime by possessing a firearm while the warrant is outstanding, they can now walk into a police station with a firearm, surrender it to the police, avoid charges for having the firearm, and have the outstanding warrant cancelled. They simply have to promise (pretty please) to go to court and answer the charges they failed to answer previously.

In the gun control debate, those who support gun rights often point out the basic fallacy of gun control: criminals, by definition, do not follow laws, so gun control laws won’t impact criminals. Gun control proponents essentially concede this fact when they focus their efforts on anti-gun laws and gun reduction policies rather than increased sentencing or enforcement of existing laws.

The Cleveland Municipal Court program clearly illustrates the true intent of gun control proponents. The government, by and through the Cleveland Municipal Court, has made a policy decision that prefers controlling guns over controlling the criminals who wield them.

But if 25,000 of Cleveland’s most wanted fugitive criminals have guns to turn into bail, doesn’t it simply prove that criminals still possess guns despite all the other gun control schemes and all the many Federal, State, and Home Rule ordinances? Yes. And Cleveland law enforcement knows it.

Ken Hanson is Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair and author of The Ohio Guide to Firearm Laws.

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