Upper Arlington updates ordinances to comply with Ohio gun laws
"Preemption," as specified in Ohio Revised Code 9.68, says that gun regulation is the exclusive purview of the state and that political subdivisions, such as cities, cannot enact gun laws beyond what state law sets forth.
While some cities, such as Columbus and Cincinnati, fight Ohio's preemption laws and must be sued to force them into compliance, others understand they are obligated to follow the law. Upper Arlington is a recent example of how cities should approach the issue.
On Dec. 5, 2022, Upper Arlington City Council voted to adopt a set of amendments to the city's code of ordinances to bring the city into compliance with state law on matters of concealed carry and knives. Specifically, the city amended ordinances to comply with permitless carry (SB 215), the addition of knives to Ohio's preemption protections (SB 156), and the legalization of knife carry and the manufacture and sale of "switchblades" and similar knives (SB 140).
The updated laws went into effect in early January.
Did Upper Arlington leaders take this action all on their own? Of course, not. A BFA member and resident of the city contacted the Buckeye Firearms Association last year to bring the errant city ordinances to our attention. As we've done on many similar occasions, we advised him on how to approach the city on this matter and what information to present.
So he contacted the Upper Arlington city attorney, presented information on the new state laws BFA worked to pass, and cited the city ordinances that did not comply. This is fairly easy to do because nearly every municipality makes its laws publicly available online and can generally be found when you google the city name, state, and the word "ordinances." In this case, you could find the laws of Upper Arlington by searching for "Upper Arlington Ohio ordinances."
Most small and medium-size cities, even those that lean left politically, prefer to abide by the law and avoid litigation, so they are generally willing to modify their ordinances when you clearly and politely point out discrepancies. And in nearly every case, the best first contact is the city attorney, whose job is to act as legal counsel and keep the municipality out of trouble.
Being confrontational or presenting hostile public testimony at city council meetings isn't helpful in most cases and may actually slow down the process. Typically, once the city attorney understands what parts of city ordinances are not in compliance, he or she will bring this to the attention of city council members and quietly suggest modifications, which are then voted on.
If you're curious, you can watch this video showing how the Upper Arlington city attorney presented this to council members and the ensuing discussion and vote. Even though council members clearly didn't like the changes— even tears from one member — the ordinance amendments passed on a 6-1 vote, with Ukeme Awakessien Jeter casting the "no" vote.
The process doesn't always go smoothly, which was the case in University Heights, where the city refused to modify its ordinances until after an election brought change to leadership. But the case of Marysville, where the process took only five months, is more typical.
I've done this in my own hometown and, as I write this, I'm preparing to contact our city attorney to suggest further ordinance modifications for the city to comply with SB 185 which limits government power during emergencies and will go into effect on April 4, 2023.
If you want to look up the ordinances in your hometown, do an internet search as described above. Then search the text for laws related to firearms, concealed carry, knives, emergency powers, ammunition, magazines, and similar topics. If you believe something does not comply with current Ohio law, feel free to contact us (choose "other" for the category on the contact form).
With well over 2,000 cities, villages, and townships in Ohio, it is up to every resident to hold their local leaders to account for the laws on the books and to make sure they do not violate your Second Amendment rights.
Dean Rieck is Executive Director of Buckeye Firearms Association, a former competitive shooter, NRA Patron Member, former #1 NRA Recruiter, and host of the Keep and Bear Radio podcast.
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