We warned them: Supremes nix City of Cleveland gun control laws; untold tax dollars wasted
Cleveland.com reported late last week that the Ohio Supreme Court has refused to take up the City of Cleveland's appeal of an Eighth District Court of Appeals decision which 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 in 2016.
The decision comes just over 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.
From Cleveland.com coverage of the decision:
Jackson on Wednesday expressed disappointment that the Supreme Court would not hear the case.
"I disagree with the Ohio Supreme Court's decision not to hear the city of Cleveland's appeal to uphold its own gun laws," Jackson said in a statement. "The laws the city proposed and that were enacted by our City Council are reasonable and do not conflict with any state gun regulations."
The laws were enacted, the mayor said, as an effort to provide for the safety of residents. The Supreme Court's decision will weaken cities' home rule abilities and efforts to protect citizens, he said.
"Local municipalities are the most familiar with - and the most impacted by-- the public safety needs of its citizens because we deal with the results of crime and violence every day," Jackson said.
"In 2017, the City of Cleveland had 130 homicides and 112 of them were a result of gun violence," he said. "We are reminded, through senseless tragedies, of the need to remove and keep weapons from the hands of those who should not have them."
In defeat, Jackson has once again fled to talking points about gun violence. But to say that "the laws were enacted as an effort to provide for the safety of residents" is a lie.
At the time of its passage, council president Kevin Kelley admitted that "the legislation was not designed to stop gun violence." 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 leaders 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.
"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.
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.
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 and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is co-founder of BFA-PAC, and served as its Vice Chairman for 15 years. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.