OOPS: Fremont, OH police chief claims civilians aren't allowed to possess magazines that hold over nine rounds
by Chad D. Baus
In a media report Monday, January 23, City of Fremont Police Chief Tim Wiersma misstated Ohio gun law. In a Thursday phone conversation with Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine, Wiersma said he has spent the rest of the week answering phone calls and letters from citizens seeking to correct him.
In the WTOL (CBS Toledo) report on how one of his department's officers had two guns and five magazines stolen from his Toledo home, Chief Wiersma stated that he was more concerned about the theft because one of the guns had a larger magazine capacity than that allowed for civilian use.
Fremont's Police Chief Tim Wiersma said it is a concerning crime because it endangers the public.
"The heightened concern is the bigger, larger capacity for the magazines. Police have a 15 round magazine, and the legal limit for a civilian is nine. So, there's six more bullets," said Wiersma.
Wiersma's quote was also repeated in The Fremont News-Messenger on January 25.
There is no plainer way to say it - Chief Wiersma was simply wrong. What's more, the news media didn't do any fact checking before they ran the story.
In 1994 President Clinton signed a law imposing a federal ban on the manufacture of magazines greater than ten rounds for sale to anyone but law enforcement. That ban expired in 2004. It was NEVER illegal for civilians to possess the millions of higher-capacity magazines already in existence, or to buy and sell them on the used market, even during that ten year manufacturing ban. And there was never anything about nine rounds in the law.
In Ohio, the only limit on magazines is for anything over 31 rounds - see Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 2923.11 (E).
Many citizens have called Chief Wiersma to educate him about the law. He told Buckeye Firearms Association Chairman Jim Irvine that he has received many phone calls, letters and pages upon pages of ORC (Ohio Revised Code) sent to him by those upset by his remarks.
"I was wrong," Wiersma lamented to Irvine.
It is refreshing to hear such simple words from high ranking officials. Every person makes mistakes. It's what you do after you realize the mistake that establishes one's character.
The size restriction was never a real issue to the Chief, because as a law enforcement officer, he was not personally affected by the ban. He was permitted to buy any magazine he wanted. He had heard about the sunset of the bill, but simply forgot about that change while talking with news media.
We have seen many cases where citizens and law enforcement have not kept up with changes in the law. On one hand it is understandable, because the laws are complicated and keep changing. On the other hand it is frustrating, because "ignorance is no excuse," and many good people have been prosecuted for a simple misunderstanding of firearms laws. (New York City, for example, has been in the news of late for being among the most hostile places for visiting gun owners who are unaware of the city's stringent gun control laws.)
We thank the citizens who politely called to correct the Chief, who promises to work harder to make correct statements to the media in the future. A good relationship with your local police and legislators helps keep them aware of how laws are affecting you.
As for the news media, News-Messenger staff writer Mark Tower has told Buckeye Firearms Association that they want to set the record straight. Requests for WTOL to correct the report have so far gone unanswered.
Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.