Series: Columbus' last assault weapons ban was a failure; City Attorney Zach Klein wants to reinstate it (Part 2)

Editor's Note: After a three year effort to convince a local judge to rule that Ohio's premption law, R.C. 9.68, unconstitutionally infringes upon the City of Columbus' right to exercise its zoning powers, City Attorney Zach Klein is taking the opportunity to fantasize about reinstating another so-called assault weapons ban in Columbus. Given that Klein was in his mid-20s the last time Columbus enacted such a ban, and quite possibly wasn't paying attention, we thought it would be worth refreshing his memory on why reinstating such a ban would be pointless. This is the second in a series of 2005-2006 articles, which were not-so-affectionately named after the ban's sponsor, then-city councilman Mike Mentel.

Part 2: Mentel “Assault Weapon” Ban a Failure from the Start

by Dean Rieck

Gun bans don’t work. They never work. But that didn’t stop Councilman Michael Mentel from writing a bad law, conducting a sham public hearing, and shoving his citywide assault weapon ban down the throats of Columbus residents.

Consider the recent case of Alawwal Knowles, who shot at police and terrorized a Columbus neighborhood with an AK-47. From the Columbus Dispatch:

On July 11, 2004, Knowles shot and injured two of his distant cousins, Clarence Roberts and Brandon Allison, on the West Side. Using an AK-47, he shot about 60 bullets at police as he drove up I-71 and through a North Side neighborhood.

What the story doesn’t mention is that the shooting took place while the Federal Assault Weapons Ban was in force. Knowles’ AK-47 was banned by that law, yet the ban didn’t stop him from having it or using it. Why? Because violent criminals don’t care about gun bans. People who are most likely to commit violent crimes are least likely to obey any sort of law, especially those related to weapon ownership.

And to make matters worse, Knowles wasn’t even charged with violating the assault weapons ban. He pleaded guilty to “two counts of felonious assault and three counts of attempted murder of a police officer.” The judge sentenced him to 39 years in prison.

So would Columbus' Mentel Ban do any better? Unlike the federal ban which covered the entire country, the city ban only covers Franklin County. The maximum penalty for violating the ban would be just six months and would have run concurrent to the 39-year felony sentence, meaning there would be no extra jail time. And it’s fair to assume that since Knowles ignored the federal ban he would have also ignored the city ban. The effect of Mentel’s ban is therefore zero.

The Knowles case clearly illustrates that current criminal law effectively punishes those who actually commit crimes with guns. However municipal laws that punish mere ownership of guns have limited scope, no deterrent effect, and no legal teeth. They only affect those who don’t commit crimes.

City gun bans have only one purpose­ - to help local politicians grandstand and pretend to be tough on crime.

Related Articles:

Part 1: The Mentel(ly) challenged

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