We warned them: City of Cleveland gun control laws struck down; untold tax dollars wasted

Cleveland.com is reporting that the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals has declared that a Cleveland gun offender registry and several gun regulations first proposed by Mayor Frank Jackson in 2014, and passed by city council in 2015 are unconstitutional. A lower court had already struck down other parts of the law last year.

The Eight District decision comes less than three years after Buckeye Firearms Association's Ken Hanson testified before the Cleveland City Council, warning them that it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars to pass the law, and defend it in court, given the fact that they were facing certain defeat.

The Council ignored Hanson's warning and passed the law, even while its president Kevin Kelley admitted that "the legislation was not designed to stop gun violence. Rather, it is a reflection of council's values and is good public policy intended to encourage responsible gun ownership." When the proposals were first introduced, however, Kelley said "gun violence has taken far too many lives in our community. The City of Cleveland must act aggressively to address this issue."

So when the proposal was first made public Kelley said it was intended to be an aggressive act to address gun violence, but when it was passed he says it was never intended to stop gun violence. Got that?

Even Safety Director Michael McGrath admitted upon passage that he "could make no guarantees about the law's efficacy." And Councilman Michael Polensek said that despite his vote for the legislation, he didn't expect it to have an impact on the city's violent crime rate.

In other words, the Cleveland City Council knew their gun control laws would not deter the violence plaguing their city, knew they would not pass court muster, and still chose to pass the laws and waste countless taxpayer dollars defending the doomed laws in court.

From Cleveland.com coverage of the decision:

The panel sent the case back to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold who left the gun registry intact in August, but ruled that three laws violated a state law that gives state legislators preemptive control over gun laws, including a provision that allowed police officers to confiscate guns. 

The appeals court on Thursday found that all but two laws contained in the package are unconstitutional.

...

The appeals panel on Thursday ordered Saffold to declare the laws unconstitutional and award attorney's fees to Ohioans for Concealed Carry.

The two laws which were allowed to stand? A restriction on selling to people who are intoxicated and a prohibition on giving guns to a minor because they mirror existing laws established by the legislature.

In other words, the only two provisions of Cleveland's law which remain are two that address things which are already illegal under state law. And, as BFA's Hanson warned the city council when he predicted this exact eventuality, mirroring state law gives a city no upside and all downside:

Some might say, “If it is already state law, there is no harm in Cleveland passing the same law.” What would this accomplish? Confusion, redundancy, potential for lawsuits, anger, political headaches etc. All of these things are already regulated by the state in the same manner that Cleveland proposes, and Cleveland has the full, unlimited ability to use these existing state laws. Ohio already expressed the intent for firearm laws to be uniform across Ohio, and courts recognize the power of the General Assembly to do so. There is no legitimate government interest served by Cleveland making this same conduct illegal a second time. Passage of these proposed ordinances gives Cleveland no new power or tools. This is a 100% downside, 0% upside situation. Cleveland gains nothing but trouble.

"Cleveland has a long history of ignoring the rights of Ohio citizens when it comes to firearms," Hanson, legal counsel for Buckeye Firearms Association, said at the time. "And they have a history of ignoring state law. 

"By passing HB347, which became law in 2007, the Ohio General Assembly clearly sent a message to municipalities that they must abide by state law and cannot make up their own laws to regulate firearms."

Here is the relevant section from Ohio R.C 9.68:

The individual right to keep and bear arms, being a fundamental individual right that predates the United States Constitution and Ohio Constitution, and being a constitutionally protected right in every part of Ohio, the general assembly finds the need to provide 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. Except as specifically provided by the United States Constitution, Ohio Constitution, state law, or federal law, a person, without further license, permission, restriction, delay, or process, may own, possess, purchase, sell, transfer, transport, store, or keep any firearm, part of a firearm, its components, and its ammunition.

Again, from Cleveland.com:

Judge Sean Gallagher, who penned the panel's opinion, noted that the judges could only make their decision based on state law. 

"The city may not enact ordinances that conflict with Ohio's firearm ownership and possession laws, which are intended to prove uniformity throughout the state," Gallagher wrote. "If individuals on either side of the divide are unhappy with the law as written, the remedy lies with the Ohio legislature."

Judges Tim McCormack and Eileen T. Gallagher concurred.

This is the second time in less than 10 years that courts have struck down a package of gun regulations enacted in Cleveland. The Ohio Supreme Court, in a 5-2 decision handed down in 2010, overturned several laws passed by Cleveland's City Council.

For his part, Mayor Jackson has signaled he still hasn't learned his lesson, and that he plans to waste even more taxpayer monies on his gun control fantasies:

In a written statement Thursday evening, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said that the city believes that the some of the laws deemed unconstitutional can be changed by editing wording in the legislation pertaining to the definitions of "automatic weapons" and "dangerous ordinance." Corrective language has already been proposed to city council, the statement says. 

The city disagrees with the panel's ruling on ordinances about regulating the discharge of firearms, as well as the creation of a registry, the statement says. An appeal is planned.

When Mayor Jackson took office in January of 2006, the City of Cleveland was enforcing a so-called "assault" weapons ban. With passage of HB 347 late that same year, the ban was rendered unenforceable. Jackson immediately set about to complain that he could no longer prosecute people for crimes committed with these guns, and that the loss of that tool had directly resulted in Cleveland’s increasing violent crime problem. The mayor even staged press conferences behind a table of scary-looking guns, implying that they had been confiscated through the now-defunct ban.

We challenged the media to investigate whether or not Jackson's claims were true.  Getting the answer would be easy for a responsible journalist to do - if the city was having troubles prosecuting offenses in the absence of the ban, that would show through a significant drop in convictions related to those offenses. No one at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, or any other news organization, for that matter, took it upon themselves to investigate. So we did.

Public records requests by Buckeye Firearms Association revealed that in all of 2006, Jackson's first year in office, there was not one single person charged with a violation of Cleveland’s assault weapons ban. That’s right, not even one. 

In 2007 (before HB347 took effect), there was one person prosecuted for a violation of Cleveland’s bans. The case never made it to trial because the Grand Jury returned a “no bill”, meaning they didn’t even find the enough evidence of a crime for the case to move forward to a trial.

In the mayor’s entire tenure, not only had the City of Cleveland not convicted a single person under their so-called assault weapons ban; they never even took one case to trial!

Even going back to 2005, we found only two people charged with violating Cleveland’s ban. They either pled, or were found guilty. Obviously, the (not so) big drop in convictions for this now-defunct law had nothing to do with Cleveland’s crime problem. That's because the City of Cleveland has rarely used its gun control laws against criminals before, and they won't now. (In fact, our investigation revealed far more about an administration that is soft on gun crime than about inanimate objects causing their woes. Not only did the city fail to enforce their ordinances, but they let bad guys go.)

When a mayor and city council stand up and publicly announce that they are plotting to openly refuse to follow the law, they are behaving exactly like the criminals they claim to be seeking to bring to justice.

When a mayor and city council refuse to do things that are proven to reduce crime, and instead commit their city to spending time, money, and resources on things that can't possibly reduce crime and/or are illegal, it is gross negligence.

It's no surprise that crime is up in Cleveland. What else would anyone expect when the city "leaders" are part of the problem instead of part of the solution?

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and a NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.

Related Articles:

Cleveland mayor proposes "new" gun control laws; Buckeye Firearms Assoc. threatens lawsuit

Gun Owners Oppose Cleveland's New Proposed Regulations

Cleveland council president claims new gun control law was never about violence, but "values"

Report: Cleveland’s new gun offender registry has zero takers in first month

Judge strikes some of Cleveland's latest gun control regulations, others upheld

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