by Joseph P. Tartaro
Columbus police suspended enforcement of the city’s assault-weapons ban on Mar. 14 as a new Ohio law took effect, wiping out many locally enacted gun controls across Ohio.
The state law, approved by the legislature in December over the veto of then-Gov. Bob Taft, says only state and federal lawmakers can enact rules governing the possession, sale and storage of guns in Ohio. According to The Columbus Dispatch, it wiped about 80 local laws off the books in Columbus, Dublin and more than a dozen other cities across the state.
The city of Cleveland immediately sued the state in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, contending that the pre-emption law violated the state’s constitutional provision for “home rule” which allows municipalities to adopt and enforce their own ordinances. Cleveland has enacted several, especially when it comes to firearms. The Ohio attorney general will be in charge of arguing against the city in support of the new firearms preemption statute.
Columbus considered its own suit or the possibility of joining Cleveland’s county court lawsuit, then opted for a free ride.
In both cities, officials said the law wiping out local controls such as gun-dealer licensing and bans on certain types of firearms, such as so-called assault weapons, puts the public’s safety at risk. However, while Cleveland intended to enforce local gun laws, including a ban on some semi-automatic firearms, Columbus decided not to enforce its ban on “assault weapons” pending the decision in the Cleveland suit. The city’s non-enforcement decision also enabled it to try to dodge a suit that had been filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court seeking a temporary, then permanent, injunction against the city enforcing its ban. The plaintiffs in this suit were attorney Phillip L. Harmon and Jerry Smolak, who had been a plaintiff in previous federal lawsuits which overturned earlier Columbus gun bans. Both are Columbus residents.
At a Mar. 16 court hearing the judge denied the motion for a temporary restraining order on the basis that the city’s decision not to enforce the ban eliminated the need for such an order.
The plaintiffs, however, continue to press for a permanent injunction, arguing that the city’s ban is still on the books and could turn them into criminals overnight if the city suddenly elects to do enforce the law.
Columbus argues that there is no need for a court-ordered injunction against enforcement of its ban since it has voluntarily chosen not to enforce the ordinance.
The plaintiffs would rather the law wasn’t on the books at all, hanging over their heads as the dispute between the home rule advocates and the firearms preemption advocates continues.
Meanwhile, the president of the Cleveland, OH, Police Patrolman’s Association (CPPA) has advised the union’s members to disregard an order from anti-gun Mayor Frank G. Jackson that, pending the challenge of Ohio’s new state preemption law, the police continue enforcing the city’s gun laws.