Ohio Cities Slow to Comply With State Gun Laws
by Jesse Hathaway
Numerous Ohio cities including Westerville and Oberlin have gun laws on the books conflicting with House Bill 347 (HB 347), which was introduced in 2005 and gave the state government sole regulatory authority over gun laws in the Buckeye State starting in March 2007.
Ohio Revised Code (ORC) section 9.68, instituted by HB 347, provides for "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."
State law clarifies that citizens "may own, possess, purchase, sell, transfer, transport, store, or keep any firearm, part of a firearm, its components, and its ammunition," subject only to restrictions from the State of Ohio or the federal government.
HB 347 took effect after legislators from both parties voted in late 2006 to override Republican Governor Bob Taft's veto of the bill.
In Oberlin, city council members have been debating whether to amend ordinances to comply with state law. Though supported by anti-gun politicians such council vice-president Sharon Fairchild-Soucy, whose rationale is that she wants her grandson "to grow up in a town where guns are not necessary," courts have held that similar local laws are superseded by ORC 9.68.
In Westerville, a city ordinance regulating conduct in municipal parks will be reviewed when the city council convenes this December to consider potential modifications to local laws.
Westerville ordinance 956.17, originally passed in 1980 and updated in 2005, dictates that "no person, other than law enforcement officers" or individuals with concealed-carry licenses, "shall carry any firearm," restricting open carry of firearms in conflict with state law.
When contacted by Media Trackers, Community Affairs administrator Christa Dickey consulted with Westerville law director Bruce Bailey regarding the ordinance.
Dickey explained, "the Law Department researched the matter and has advised the City not to enforce the ordinance" pending review.
She added, "the Law Department will recommend that the code be modified at the next codification update."
Jim Irvine, president of Second Amendment advocacy group the Buckeye Firearms Association (BFA), was encouraged by Westerville leaders' decision to adhere to state law, but warned that citizens need to be wary of similar local ordinances in their own neighborhoods.
"I think it is important for local municipalities to periodically review their laws and make sure that they're in compliance with state and federal law,” Irvine told Media Trackers. "I don't know of many cities who sit around and go 'well, that's okay, we've got thousands of dollars to waste on this.' At the end of the day, it's established law."
"If the city's not in compliance, then they need to be," Irvine continued. "They've had many years to get this worked out. There's really no excuse to still not be in compliance."
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