Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's 18-21 Firearms Ownership Ban to be reintroduced

By Chad D. Baus & Ken Hanson, Esq.

Even as the City of Cleveland continues to be the only municipality in Ohio illegally enforcing local firearm laws, while at the same time lying about it to the media, Buckeye Firearms Association has learned that the anti-Second Amendment, anti-self-defense, anti-hunting legislation which Mayor Frank Jackson tried unsuccessfully to get passed in the 127th General Assembly is about to be reintroduced.

According to our sources, Rep. Barbara Boyd (D) is circulating a letter requesting co-sponsors for a piece of gun control legislation which died at the end of last session, and which she apparently intends to reintroduce. The legislation, which was known in the 127th General Assembly as House Bill 354, was written by Mayor Jackson's own law department, and first introduced October 16, 2007 by Rep. Boyd and Rep. Sandra Williams (D). (UPDATE: The Boyd/Williams bill has been reintroduced in 2009 as HB85, and has been co-sponsored by Reps. Skindell, DeBose, Harris, Mallory, and Foley)

When first introduced, Mayor Jackson attempted to exploit the shooting death of 12 year-old Asteve'e (a-STEE'-vuh) "Cookie" Thomas by a 20 year-old suspect, pointing the finger toward Columbus and claiming state lawmakers were to blame for her death. But just as when the Mayor wasted city funds in a doomed attempt to challenge the statewide preemption of local gun control laws in effort to save the city's ban on tactical rifles, this legislation is again proposing a "solution" that would not have prevented the "problem", because the bottom line is that there is not now and was not then ANY legal way for an underage person to gain possession of a firearm in Ohio.

We have laws prohibiting anyone from giving them a gun, and from selling them a gun. We have laws prohibiting them from buying a gun. And of course we have laws prohibiting them from doing anything illegal with the gun. If there is no legal way for them to buy the gun, and no legal way for a dealer to sell it to them, and no legal way for a grown-up to sell or furnish them the gun, then someone has violated a gun control law by giving it to them.

Furthermore, mere possession by a minor is currently a crime under our complicity statute. Any method they use to gain possession of the gun will violate federal or state law, and they have aided or abetted the act of illegally giving them possession by possessing it. So they are guilty of violating the statute itself under Ohio's complicity law.

Casting the facts aside, Jackson took to the microphones in 2007, lamenting that "we need action now and we are asking for swift enactment of this legislation so that we can begin to take guns out of the hands of our children and make our community safer."

"Anyone, including a child, can walk down a street with an assault rifle, a semiautomatic pistol or a shotgun," Jackson claimed. "And our Police Department has no ability to arrest them."

Needless to say, we at Buckeye Firearms Association were skeptical of claims that Cleveland apparently has a problem with "children" walking around with guns and the city is powerless to do anything about it. We immediately submitted the following Public Records Request:

1. Copies of the research conducted by Mayor Jackson’s staff, as referred to in the press release.

2. For 1/1/04-present, records of cases where persons under age 21 were caught “brandishing” firearms and were released without any criminal charges.

3. For 1/1/04-present, records of cases where persons under age 21 were caught with firearms incident to arrest or other investigation and did not face any firearm charges.

4. For 1/1/04-present, records of cases where persons under age 21 were caught with firearms incident to arrest or other investigation and did not face any criminal charges at all.

5. For 1/1/04-present, records of all cases where someone was caught with a firearm incident to arrest or other investigation and were released without any criminal charges.

Seventeen months later, the City of Cleveland still has not produced a single instance of a need to take a gun out of the hands of a "child" where they were powerless to do so. It seems hard to justify whether a proposed law addresses a problem or not when the City of Cleveland cannot even articulate what the problem is.

It is important to note that the "research" Mayor Jackson provided in 2007 to allege a need for the legislation included "children" up to the age of 25, and cited "a growing number of arrests". Most officials would have been hesitant to argue they were having difficulty enforcing the law at the same time they are releasing statisics proving that arrests and confiscations were on the rise, but not Mayor Jackson.

Beyond the complete lack of justification for this law (possessing firearms is a fundamental right under the Ohio Constitution, the burden is on the City to demonstrate why the infringement of this right is needed and how the infringement addresses a legitimate governmental interest), there are hidden pitfalls in this legislation that were given no attention by the media when it was originally introduced. Indeed, a review of the provisions show that this is a gun control measure, and like all gun control measures, will only impact the law-abiding.

First, and most importantly, this is a gun ban. Right now, under current law, someone 18 or older can possess a rifle or shotgun for home defense, with or without another adult present. Jackson's bill completely bans these people, who may now lawfully own a gun, from buying/owning a gun, and these people may not possess a gun, even a long gun, unless under the direct supervision of an adult age 21 or over. Unless a 20 year-old, who has their own apartment/house/job/baby/voting rights etc., is living with a 21 year-old, they will be completely stripped of their right to even have a gun in their own home for defense.

This clearly violates the Ohio Constitution, which states in Article I Section 4 that "the people have the right to bear arms for their defence and security". And now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in D.C. v. Heller that there is a constitutional right to self-defense, there are even broader questions of constitutionality.

Another negative aspect of the legislation involves hunting. As proposed, the legislation would force licensed hunters who now take to the woods solo to bring a supervisor. Rob Sexton, a lobbyist with the Columbus-based U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, has said if Jackson's legislation became law it "would have a devastating effect on efforts to attract new hunters and recreational shooters."

Perhaps the most insidious provision of Jackson's bill is the "under the radar" attempt to impose a nebulous "secure storage" standard on all gun owners. As written, if you "negligently fail to take proper precautions" and a criminal obtains your firearm, you are criminally responsible and will be charged with a First Degree Misdemeanor. Would anyone care to guess how "reasonable" the "proper precautions" will be in Toledo or Cleveland? This provision is an open-ended invitation to charge any gun owner at any place or time with a crime simply for exercising a right. This criminalization of self-defense is inexcusable.

For her part, it is unclear whether Rep. Boyd even understands the legislation which Jackson gave her to introduce. For instance, in December 2008, the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed House Bill 450, which restored these military members' right to purchase a handgun. Rep. Boyd voted in favor of HB450 when it originally passed the House in May of 2008, and again voted for the final version of the bill just two months ago. Not only would the bill she is once again introducing for Mayor Jackson overturn a law she just got done voting for, it would go even farther, stripping ALL Second Amendment rights from current and former members of the Armed Services under the age of 21.

As with most gun control, the devil is in the details. Mayor Jackson's legislation was allowed to die in the last legislative session, because he was unable to provide justification of the need for this law. Nothing has changed since then, so that should be the death of the measure this time as well.

Action does need to be taken, however, to curb the renegade actions of Mayor Jackson. Fresh on the heels of a poll naming Cleveland the second least-desirable U.S. city to live in, Mayor Jackson appears determined to make a run at the top spot as Cleveland continues to be the only municipality in Ohio illegally enforcing local firearm laws. The victims? Cleveland's own taxpayers.

Local firearm laws were preempted by HB347, as was affirmed by the Ohio Supreme Court. Despite this legal reality, Cleveland continues to throw the legal equivalent of a temper tantrum by filing charges against tax payers for possessing unregistered handguns.

Buckeye Firearms Foundation will stop Cleveland and other cities like it from targeting gun owners like you. We must ask for your help with funding. Through Buckeye, all gun owners can act together so that no gun owner will be left facing a rogue city alone.

Help Buckeye Firearms stop Cleveland's abuse of law-abiding gun owners

Related Stories:
Plain Dealer Editorial: New gun laws wouldn't solve Cleveland's crime problem

Another newspaper op-ed recognizes the folly of Mayor Jackson's gun control

CCRKBA: Cleveland Mayor 'All Wet' on Anti-Gun Proposal to Stem Crime

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